Story by Parker Johnson. Photos by Liliana Banta.
With the eyes of the world on Afghanistan, we can’t help but feel sorrow for the thousands of refugees fleeing the only home they have ever known. According to the Biden administration, the United States is expected to resettle around 125,000 Afghan refugees, with just over 30,000 already on American soil. Thousands of these refugees plan to relocate in cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio. According to several Texas House and Senate members, Texas is prepared to take as many as 10,000 Afghan refugees in the coming months. With so many refugees potentially coming into Texas, many nonprofits and other organizations are stepping up to the plate to help these Afghans build a better life for themselves and their families.
One such nonprofit is Mosaic Family Services. Founded in 1993 by Dr. Walter Nguyen, Mosaic Family Services has been a cornerstone in the Dallas community providing vital services to the refugee population. Dr. Nguyen was himself a refugee from Vietnam. In the beginning, Mosaic provided services focused on educating and empowering the refugee population to live happy and self-sufficient lives. However, with Mosaic’s growing influence, it did not take long for the nonprofit to expand to other avenues of aid. In 1997, Mosaic Family Services launched the Multicultural Family Violence Program, which focused on helping foreign-born victims of violence, especially victims of family violence. In 2001, Mosaic Family Services launched the first anti-trafficking program in the state of Texas.
Today, Mosaic Family Services is leading the charge in helping refugees find a better life in the state of Texas. In 2020, 440 refugees received case management through Mosaic Family Services, and 719 received citizenship services. Out of all the refugees who took part in the Mosaic Family Services citizenship program, 99% acquired Legal Permanent Residency or Citizenship in the United States.
Mosaic Family Services is nothing without the tireless effort of those that work to provide a better life for the countless refugees who walk through their door. Three shining examples of selfless service to their community are Katie Jenkins, Haidar Al Zuheiri, and Momtaz Begum.
Momtaz Begum, who serves as development director, truly embodies the passion behind Mosaic Family Services. “I whole-heartedly love my job,” Momtaz says. “There is nothing I would rather do. I have had other opportunities, but I don’t want to leave. I feel these are my people, and doing anything else would be a disservice to them.”
Moving to America over seven years ago from London, Momtaz has seen first-hand how much can be achieved when refugees are allowed to thrive. “My parents themselves are from Bangledesh,” Momtaz says. “My parents came to England after escaping the civil war. There is a lot of history in my family in terms of conflict zones and how people are moving to better their lives and escape war-torn places.”
Katie Jenkins, who serves as a volunteer coordinator, has spent her entire professional career working for various nonprofits in the Dallas community. Born and raised in Dallas, Katie has a deep connection to the Dallas community and understands the needs of the refugees seeking a new life in North Texas.
Momtaz refers to Katie as Mosaic’s link to the Dallas community. “Katie shares a wealth of knowledge on the Dallas community,” Says Momtaz. “Mosaic is very international, so having someone that understands the Dallas community and the intricacy surrounding that is very helpful to us.”
Another former refugee on staff at Mosaic, Haidar Al Zuhri, shows how a refugee can find a better life and use their new opportunities to help others find the same fulfillment. Over the last couple of decades, Haidar has built an impressive career working for various organizations, including the U.S. Army in logistics support and the U.N. in the registration program for refugees. “It is this work that originally inspired me to work in this field with refugees,” Haidar says. “I know what refugees suffer before given the opportunity to move to America or another country.”
Now, Haidar serves as the Program Director for Citizenship Services at Mosaic Family Services. He and the rest of the Mosaic team help provide various services to refugees, including legal aid, citizenship or legal status, and integration programs. “We technically transfer their life from being new to this country not knowing anything to a self-sufficient U.S citizen,” says Haidar. “We start by providing services like transportation and interpretation. We help them connect them to housing, education, medication, employment, basically everything they will need first-hand.”
The support Mosaic Family Services provides does not stop once a refugee arrives in North Texas. Haidar says, “After they spend a while in the U.S., we provide legal services to help them apply for a green card and citizenship. There is no time limit on our integration services. I have clients that have been in the country for five to ten years.”
Nonprofits like Mosaic Family Services rely on the local community to help them to continue the great work they are doing. If you are interested in getting involved with Mosaic Family Services, they provide many opportunities for you to give back, including donations, volunteering, or writing welcome letters for incoming refugees. Visit mosaicservices.org for all the details.