Waiting 6 Years for a Hug

By Sharon Samber


Claris has been waiting for six years to hug her children.

After fleeing Cameroon for her personal safety, Claris sought asylum in the U.S. HIAS helped her win her asylum case and get a green card, but Claris’ children were still back in Cameroon. This year, she finally got approval for them to come and join her.

Yesterday, on a sunny morning at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, Claris finally got to wrap her arms around her two kids. The last time she could do that her daughter, Blossom, was 5, and her son, Junior, was 6. Now they are 11 and 12 years old.

Claris and her mother, Anita, as they waited for the arrival of Junior and Blossom at Dulles International Airport. May 13, 2021. (Evy Mages for HIAS)

Claris spots Junior and Blossom coming through the door at the airport. May 13, 2021. (Evy Mages for HIAS)

Claris is overwhelmed the moment before her children come through the door at the airport. May 13, 2021. (Evy Mages for HIAS)

Claris hugs her daughter Blossom (R), and Claris’ mother, Anita, hugs her grandson Junior (L) as the family is reunited at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. May 13, 2021 (Evy Mages for HIAS)

Claris hugs her lawyer, Sue Kenney-Pfalzer, HIAS’ director of the border and asylum network, who helped with her asylum claim. “Sue is the best,” Claris said. May 13, 2021. (Evy Mages for HIAS)

Claris, Junior, Blossom, and Anita get ready to go home. May 13, 2021. (Evy Mages for HIAS)

Overwhelmed and tired from hours of travel, the children were quiet but they smiled as their mother and grandmother, Anita, joyfully yelled “My baby!” and “Finally!”

The day before they arrived, Claris had chatted on the phone with her son and daughter about typical things like video games and dinner options that were going to be different from their lives in Cameroon. She explained how she had just moved to a new apartment to have more room for them. They were excited, she said, but it was still hard for them to leave home.

Claris has found a new life in the U.S. and is eager for her children to become a part of it. She works as a community support worker for a mental health agency in Washington, D.C., but she has plans to start a non-profit to help women, particularly single mothers. She says she likes to go out into the neighborhood to help people find jobs and become independent.

In the airport after calling family members and sharing videos, Claris wondered aloud, “What next?” Whatever it is, Claris can face all new things with her children right next to her.

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