Lost in migration: A refugee falls between the cracks
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Neema John, a Rwandan refugee, lives illegally in a Dar es Salaam slum with her son. Seven years ago, a rape caused her to flee the Tanzanian refugee camp where she'd lived with her family. Mary Wiltenburg
Neema's son, 4-year-old Briton 'Toni' Joseph, naps in the room he and his mother rent. In one corner, a week's supply of water waits in buckets. Over the bed hangs a collection of belts, which, along with the toy at his side, are gifts from their family, who were resettled in the US without them. Mary Wiltenburg
In the hallway of the house where they rent their room, Neema and Toni, just up from his nap, cook a pot of ugali, the pulpy starch dish that's the staple of their diet. The building has no electricity, so residents use gas or traditional charcoal stoves. Mary Wiltenburg
Neema and a friend prepare a stew of tomato, okra, 'bitter tomatoes,' and dagaa, the tiny dried sardines popular in much of Central Africa. With the $50 her parents send her each month, she can afford rent and at least two meals a day for her and her son. Mary Wiltenburg
Neema's neighborhood is inaccessible to cars. Here she ascends the hilly footpath to the central square, where she and Toni buy vegetables and charcoal, and to go to church and school. Mary Wiltenburg
As afternoon rains roll in, Neema gathers her laundry - hand-washed in a basin and hung out to dry - to take it inside. In Tanzania, April and May are known as 'the long rain.' Mary Wiltenburg
In her room, Neema folds laundry rescued from the sudden downpour. Though she has built a stable life here for her son, she is desperate to be reunited with her mother, stepfather, and brothers, who now live in Atlanta, Ga. Mary Wiltenburg
Taking advantage of the rain, Neema heads to a neighbor's to gather water that runs off the roof. She likes her neighbors, she says, but lives in fear that they'll discover she's living here illegally. Mary Wiltenburg
Neema gathers water from a neighbor's roof. She and friends strain the rainwater through wire mesh, but typically drink it unboiled. Sanitation is a problem in this neighborhood built on a trash heap. Mary Wiltenburg
Neema prepares to hem a kanga, a traditional wrap skirt, in the hallway outside her room. Kangas are printed with a message. This one, a gift for her mother, talks on the lower hem about a mother's love and suffering. Mary Wiltenburg
Neema plays with son Toni in the walkway outside their home. Her parents have petitioned the US for permission to bring the pair to Atlanta. They say they are praying for an answer before she turns 21 in September 2009, and becomes ineligible for reunification. Mary Wiltenburg
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