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Helping women from around the world
2016 Sep 20

Asylee Women Enterprise Logo
A.W.E. provides temporary and transitional housing to women seeking asylum.

“They come here seeking protection from persecution,” said Tiffany Nelms of the women she works with at the Asylee Women Enterprise. A.W.E. is supported by seven religious communities, including the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

They come to the US escaping a slew of problems in their home country. Nelms, the executive director for A.W.E., has met journalists who have spoken out against their government, women accused of witchcraft and other escaping religious persecution.

People seeking asylum and refugees may face the same issues in their home countries but their treatment in the US is very different.

“They get to the United States and they come here and ask for asylum and until their request is granted they don’t get any benefits, such as housing assistance or a work permit” said Sister Allyn Horton, who has worked with A.W.E. before. “That’s the difference between asylum and refugee status, no benefits. A refugee stays in their country, asks for permission to come over and when they arrive they get housing help and a work permit immediately. But these women get nothing.”

Many of the women who receive help from A.W.E. had thriving professional careers in their home country but must start from scratch in the US.

“You might have a woman who was a doctor or a human rights lawyer but is now cleaning a hotel,” Sister Allyn said.

A.W.E. provides legal help, educational programs, and housing among other things during the asylum process which can take up to two years.

“We offer services but a lot of what we do is help people heal by forming a community and developing close relationships with other people,” Nelms said.

Often the women who are brought together through A.W.E. are from countries that are at odds with each other but the women are able to sit down together, laugh, talk, and share.

For more information about Asylee Women Enterprise, check out their website.