Imagine having to flee your home at a moment’s notice after suffering extreme physical violence, leaving with nothing but the clothes on your back and your surviving family members. Imagine walking for 20 days along environments unknown, often dangerous, searching for shelter, food, water, and safety. Then imagine enduring all of that without knowing how (or if) life will ever be the same again. For Salada Simba and her family, this was not an exercise in imagination—it was real. She and her family endured these very same experiences, which led them to seek refuge in the United States, eventually making their way to Portland, Oregon, where they found community, stability, and freedom with the help of Catholic Charities of Oregon.
When the Somalian Civil War broke out in 1992, Salada Simba and her children were forced from their home and, after walking for almost three weeks, spent 13 years living in two different Kenyan refugee camps. In 2005, Salada and her family were able to resettle in the United States, eventually making their way to Portland, OR where she and her family found housing at Catholic Charities’ Kateri Park, an affordable housing community that offers a multitude of resident services, including academic enrichment programs for pre-school and school-aged children, English language instruction, family mentors, pathways to citizenship, health promotion, school liaison, family advocacy, and more.
Salada, her three daughters, and six grandchildren moved into an apartment at Kateri Park – three generations living in one apartment helping each other heal and re-establish their lives. As part of the Bantu community, Salada and her family have built their home and found a sense of belonging among the other 30 Somali Bantu families at Kateri Park.
Upon settling into Kateri Park, Salada and her family had ready access to Catholic Charities’ full suite of wraparound services to help ensure they settled into their new Oregon home as easily and comfortably as possible. Our Caritas Housing program, Catholic Charities’ dedicated housing entity, provided her with affordable housing, while our Resident Services team helped Salada’s grandchildren engage and stay active in their community though Kateri Park’s youth services, including our Homework Club and new Sports Program. Salada herself also learned to speak English through our English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) classes.
Despite the many untold hardships that Salada experienced while living in refugee camps, Salada has always put her children and their well-being and education first, making sure they had all the tools and opportunities they needed to succeed. Since moving to Portland, all three of her daughters have earned college degrees—two of whom have received master’s degrees—and her grandchildren continue to participate in our Kateri Park youth programs.
Salada shared her love of her home in Portland:
“Home is where you can be free and happy. […] I am very blessed and happy where I am now. I’ve never had a better home than here.”
Watch Salada and her family’s path from vulnerability to security with Catholic Charities:
As of 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determined that there are approximately 26.3 million individuals who are formally designated as refugees – many of whom share Salada’s experiences of unfathomable cruelty, hardship, fear, and devastation. All of them are seeking refuge in countries throughout the world that offer safety, stability and compassion. We honor those who have had to overcome incredible tragedy and oppression and who have also shown the kind of strength and resilience most of us will never have to muster—all to be able to fulfill the basic right to life many of us may take for granted.
At Catholic Charities, we believe in opening our arms to everyone who needs a safe place to call home. We heed Pope Francis’ call to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate vulnerable migrants.