Category Archives: Stories

Documentary Features a Guardian Group Client

Filmmaker Tom Shepherd (left) with Guardian Group client Junior Mayema
Filmmaker Tom Shepherd (left) with Guardian Group client Junior Mayema

“Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America” premieres as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival Wednesday, April 17th at 7:30 pm at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco (it shows again Thursday at 8 pm in Oakland).

The film powerfully and heartbreakingly details the challenging process that LGBTQ refugees must go through to find safety and security while starting over in the US. One of the newcomers featured in the movie is a client of the Guardian Group, and a couple of his volunteer helpers appear on screen.

The inspiring new documentary profiles four people who have come to San Francisco to save their own lives. Over the course of this unforgettable group portrait, Subhi (from Syria), Junior (from Congo and our Guardian Group client), and Mari and Cheyenne (from Angola) experience roadblocks and triumphs as they reflect on their respective histories and try to create a home for themselves in an environment that is not always welcoming.

This important film shows what real refugees and asylum seekers are like, contrasted to the mythical boogeymen created by the President.

The documentary is showing as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. (See their site for ticketing and more information.) 

The leads and filmmakers of "Unsettled" Junior Mayema -- in the red, white, and blue cowboy hat -- is a client of the Guardian Group.
The leads and filmmakers of “Unsettled” Junior Mayema — in the red, white, and blue cowboy hat — is a client of the Guardian Group.

Group Helps two More Asylum Seekers

This week the Guardian Group met with two asylum seekers new to San Francisco and volunteered to help them settle in the Bay Area. The number of people we have helped since our formation in 2011 is now 14.

Here are our new clients:

23-Year Old Gay Man from Uganda"My boyfriend is an immigrant" T-shirt

“M” came to the US in June for the family’s business and while here his family back home discovered pictures of M and his boyfriend. The family told him that they would have him arrested as soon as he returned.  They also cut off his access to money. So, without having planned to stay in the US, M is forced to seek asylum and has no resources to support himself. And, like most asylum seekers, he is not eligible to work for at least six months.

The people in the Guardian Group who have met him are impressed by his intelligence and spirit.

Our group has given him food, a clipper card,  and went with him to Goodwill to buy some clothes.  He has been in touch with a pro-bono attorney to file the formal asylum request.

He needs a laptop computer and housing starting August 25th.

33-Year Old Lesbian from Cameroon

“J” is a lovely woman, very pleasant and speaks fairly good English.  She is living with a lesbian couple and their 3-year-old daughter.  They are in an apartment near Lake Merritt in Oakland. Back home J did not have a regular job, but sold ice cream on the street.   She suffered from brutal physical and mental attacks and escaped to the United States in April this year.  When she arrived in the US the Immigration and Custom Enforcement put her in detention until she was bailed out and joined the women from Oakland.

The Guardian Group will help her connect with local services and provide assistance with the living costs.

The Need Grows, Our Work Continues

The Guardian Group gets frequent emails and calls from people asking for help and from people who know newcomers who need support.  We cannot help most of the people we learn about because of our limited resources.  We are very happy that we were able to accept these two clients this week.

Changing Lives

I was grateful to be invited to give a reflection on my experience with the Guardian Group at the Worship Service of the San Jose Unitarian Church on May 22, 2016.

After the shootings Sunday morning at Pulse in Orlando, my gratitude in being able to help these refugees and asylum seekers is only greater.

One refugee’s journey to San Francisco

“Subhi Nahas remembers the exact day when he knew he’d have to leave Syria. It was the Spring of 2012. He was twenty four, on a bus, going to university take a final exam. It was the last exam he needed to graduate.”
— KALW Radio Crosscurrents

The powerful story of Subhi, a gay Syrian refugee now living in the San Francisco Bay Area, is much like the stories of the clients of the Guardian Group.  Subhi is not a client of the Guardian Group, but his harrowing ordeal is too familiar.  He also was helped by ORAM and by the Jewish Family and Community Services/East Bay, agencies that have supported several of the Guardian Group’s clients.

Read the full story and listen to the Crosscurrents report.

Subhi Nahas with Fred Hertz,

Subhi Nahas with Fred Hertz, who hosted him for his first two months in California Photo by ELI WIRTSCHAFTER

Read “Gay and Marked for Death”

The New York Times has published an op-ed story about Monday’s UN Security Council session on the persecution of LGBTI people in Africa, the Middle East, and many other areas around the world.

One of the men who is scheduled to testify in front of the United Nations, Subhi Nahas, is a San Francisco residence who is a client of the Guardian Group’s partner, the Jewish Family and Children Services of the East Bay.  The Guardian Group is not helping this 28-year-old Iraqi man, but we appreciate his courage in testifying.

Read more from the New York Times.