Her smile dawns softly, then sows a warm light across her quiet face. Even in the midst of household tumult children chattering, television blaring Martha Dawud Thiew appears serene and happy.
That tranquility has been hard-earned. Thiew survived a perilous journey from a small village in southern Sudan to an apartment complex in Houston.
On Wednesday, Thiew will become a U.S. citizen. It will be a proud moment for Thiew, who beams with delight when she speaks of her life in this country. It will also be a marker of the progress of the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, a group of 3,800 refugees who spent years in refugee camps before being resettled in the United States. Most were only children when they were left orphaned and homeless by civil war.
Thiew, among the first to enter the U.S. in December 1999, was one of only 89 girls brought to this country as part of the resettlement. Many girls were killed during the war that forced them to migrate or sold into slavery. Others were placed with foster families in the refugee camps and then forgotten during resettlement efforts.
The seven years since have taken the refugees from adolescence to adulthood, from early months straining to master a new language and a new world to lives as college students and fledgling professionals. Some have gotten married. Others are becoming citizens. Many are seeking out ways to reach back and help those still in Sudan and the refugee camps of Kenya and Ethiopia.
Thiew's story reflects those struggles and successes, reports AP.
She is 31 now, the mother of four and the wife of Idris Kyana Negi, 33, also a Sudanese refugee from the same Mabaan tribe. She works the night shift as a dishwasher in the Houstonian Hotel which the elder George Bush called home during his presidency and attends the Bellaire Presbyterian Church. Her English, though halting, is impressive for someone who did not speak a word a few years ago.
And her smile tells the story of her life better than any word in any language can.