Theresa Nassau never panics if things get a little stressful as a direct care provider at Moretz Manor, LSC’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) home in Durham, North Carolina. She says when you’ve been through what she has, you see life and problems differently.
Nassau and her daughter were forced to leave their home in Liberia, a country in West Africa, because of a war.
“It was terrible. You saw people being killed and you saw people being tortured. You are just grateful you survived,” she said. “If you’ve been through some of what we’ve been through, you don’t panic.”
They escaped to Ghana, where they lived at a refugee camp while waiting to come to the United States. She said the refugee camp was the largest in Africa, with about 40,000 people living there at the time. It was safe and peaceful in Ghana, but finding a job was not easy.
“It was difficult and hard. You are used to working for an income, and that was not there,” she said. “But we survived; made it day to day. Most of what sustained us in Ghana was our faith. Our faith kept us hoping that we could get to the United States. And one day it came true.”
In 2005, after over 2 years of interviewing/working with the United Nations and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Nassau and her daughter were put on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Chicago, Illinois.
LIRS is a non-profit organization that welcomes and supports refugees and migrants entering the United States. LSC works closely with LIRS to welcome refugees through its LSC New Americans Program.
They were eventually resettled in Portland, Oregon with the help of Lutheran Community Services (LCS) Northwest.
“They (LCS Northwest) took care of everything from there,” she said. “They had sponsors, volunteers, people taking you to appointments, they found us a place to live. They were fantastic.”
Once they were on their feet, Nassau said she and her daughter felt North Carolina calling to them. They knew a lot about the state, loved the weather, and her daughter loved the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“It was like a fishing pole that pulled us there. Everything was centered around UNC Chapel Hill,” she said. “I was trying to find a mid-point and I knew a lot about North Carolina. Now Chapel Hill is home.”
Nassau secured a job as an instructional assistant with Durham Public Schools. She has her bachelor’s degree in education and taught language arts and social studies in Liberia before they were forced to leave. When she arrived in the United States, she also got her associates in general science. Her daughter lived her dream and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill.
In her job with the school system, Nassau works with exceptional children who have learning disabilities.
When Nassau came across the direct care provider job opening with LSC at Moretz Manor, she immediately knew she wanted to be part of the organization.
“When I saw the word ‘Lutheran’ I knew I had to be part of it,” she said. “The Lutheran organizations helped us so much when we came to this country. I was excited to work for Lutheran Services Carolinas.”
She began her job as a direct care provider at Moretz Manor this year, and says she loves being part of the team.
“They encourage me. They let me know what I need to do and how to get things done,” she said. “I like the teamwork here. I love working with people.”