Nov 10Seeta’s Story
Seeta was just six years old when she arrived in the United States on September 15, 2005, with her mother, brother, and two sisters. The details leading up to their arrival are a little blurry for her. They left the Ivory Coast amidst a civil war, and things happened very fast. Seeta’s father fled their home to avoid being captured by rebels, leaving her mother to seek refuge for the family without him. Along with many others from that region, Seeta’s family was forced to settle in harsh conditions at a refugee camp. For almost three years, they lived at the camp in a tent with no privacy, no school, and no sense of safety or belonging.
Ismael Guerrero, President & CEO of Mercy Housing, sat down with Seeta, a college student, former refugee, and resident of Mercy Housing Mountain Plains. They discuss their similar backgrounds, what they imagine for the future, and what Mercy Housing has meant to Seeta throughout her life.
The family’s outlook changed when the United Nations selected Seeta’s family for relocation to the United States due to a medical condition. Her sister had a cleft palate that required care, and this would lead them to America and to Mercy Housing’s Grace Apartments in Denver, Colorado.
Grace Apartments is home to 53 immigrant and refugee families, primarily from southeast Asian countries like Bhutan, Nepal, and Burma. Here, Seeta and her family were able to find the safety and comfort they had been yearning for, along with resources to help them adjust to their new life in America.
“Grace Apartments was my first home, where I first felt safe again. We lived in a tent in a refugee camp. So, coming from that and then being in your own little space and having your own room and knowing you can lock the door to your house, that meant a lot. It’s really the small things that made Grace Apartments such a welcoming place.”
The family’s transition was met with seemingly insurmountable challenges. Seeta’s mother faced the reality of raising four young children on her own in a new country. They did not know a single person. No one in the family spoke a word of English and transportation was limited to the city bus, making navigating this new culture extremely stressful. With all these obstacles in front of her, however, Seeta remained positive. This shy, little girl began to rely on the strong-knit community of Grace Apartments that helped support her through these hard times.
She also found solace in the friendships she created with other refugee kids that lived there. Those friendships forged at Grace have passed the test of time. Although they have all moved on, Seeta has remained close with a small group of friends and they often reminisce about running the hallways together as young children.
In 2009, Seeta and her family moved again. This time, to Mercy Housing’s Holly Park Apartments in Commerce City, Colorado. Although Holly Park was a much larger property, with 168 family homes, she felt the same warmth and sense of community she experienced at Grace Apartments.
While Grace helped Seeta begin her life in America, Holly Park would be the home where she thrived.
Seeta was the perfect age to get involved in many of the Residents Services programs offered to youth at Holly Park. One of her favorites was Peace Pals, an anti-bullying program focused on inclusion, kindness, and building self-esteem. Seeta worked with Resident Services Coordinators who helped her attain a scholarship to attend ballet classes giving her the opportunity to explore the world of dance.
“Holly park is great. It’s what I’ve known pretty much my whole life. So, I feel like I was a product of what my environment was, and it speaks for itself. I want to get more involved in the community because all the programs that were put in place at Holly Park helped me become who I am today.”
The Peace Pals Program, along with other onsite resources such as the onsite food pantry and rental assistance program have given Seeta’s family the foundation to succeed. Most importantly, it has allowed Seeta to realize her dreams.
Now, at age 21, Seeta continues to grow and transform herself. She is a first-generation college student attending Metro State University and is working toward a degree in social work. Aside from school, Seeta is busy with an internship at Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA), and work at UC Health. Both have helped her gain experience and valuable skills she can use in her future career.
Seeta is very passionate about giving back to the community that has helped shape the young woman she is today. After graduation in May, she would like to be a resource for kids and families and help them address challenges they might be experiencing. She also wants kids growing up in low-income housing to know they too can have a bright future for themselves.
“I want kids that are living at Holly Park now to know that this is their home and they’re not forgotten and that they can be great in the future. They just have to believe in themselves and they don’t have to let the status of low-income keep them down.”
With her determination, positive outlook, and endless sense of hope, we look forward to seeing the impact Seeta makes in this world.
“I just imagine a world where everybody gets treated with respect, dignity, and feel like they are worth something in this world.” – Seeta
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