Mary’s Center: My Home Away from Home

Mary’s Center: My Home Away from Home

By Raghad Makhlouf

We are sharing this inspiring story from a Mary’s Center participant in honor of National Mental Health Month in May.

Raghad Makhlouf

When my husband and I arrived in the U.S. from Syria as asylum seekers in 2017, we had to start our lives over from scratch. Everything here in the U.S. was new and difficult, and we had to work very hard to survive.

One of our biggest problems was getting health insurance. As low-income people, we didn’t have many options, and healthcare became an additional problem that we needed to solve.

Luckily, we heard about Mary’s Center. We were nervous we wouldn’t be accepted because we didn’t have our work authorizations or social security numbers, but from the very first moment we stepped into the building, everyone was so welcoming and supportive. We have been patients there ever since.

Mary’s Center has become a home away from home for us. They offer healthcare options we can afford, including mental health services, and they give us the feeling that there is a place that cares enough to help and support us as newcomers to this country.

I started attending weekly therapy sessions at Mary’s Center over a year ago at a very low cost, and that has helped me so much to build a new life here. Even today, while the city is in quarantine, Mary’s Center keeps providing assistance to their patients. When the pandemic hit, I thought, ‘no, please, not when I just started to feel more connected to this country and on the right path.’ Now I am again feeling fearful of the future, but therapy has kept me on track.

Being able to continue my therapy sessions during the quarantine has helped me so much to nurture my mental health and face this new situation with high spirits. All these changes feel like a step backward, but having someone telling me not to put such high expectations on myself right now has been a savior.

I am now a graduate student at the Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University, and I could not have gone through school without the help of my therapist.

After almost three years with Mary’s Center, their help and generosity have never ceased, and I feel blessed that my husband and I were able to find such a place that we call home. We are very grateful for Mary’s Center and for the donors who help keep them running, and I hope one day we feel stable enough financially to give back to that amazing community.

Watch Raghad tell her story:

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