Rila’s Path to Citizenship

July 24th, 2019 is a day Rila Choudhury will never forget. It is the day she passed her U.S. citizenship exam. Even though she had been attending Sapna’s Citizenship Class for almost a year, the weeks leading up to the exam, she was extremely nervous. As soon as she found out she passed, she called Sapna NYC to let her class facilitator hear the good news.

“I was overwhelmed with happiness,” Rila says. “It was the one and only feeling I had at that moment. Everyone was congratulating me!”

For Rila, her journey in the U.S. has been riddled with hardships and loss. She came to the U.S. in 2013 to be with her husband, whom she had married in 2011 in Bangladesh. It was extremely tough for her to leave behind her country, her family, her friends and everything she had known growing up there.

Once she moved to the U.S., she became fully dependent on her husband for everything. “I didn’t know any English so he would have to do everything for me.”

Her husband passed away in 2017, leaving her alone in New York City with no family. She has not gone back to Bangladesh since she came here, unable to even attend the funeral of both her parents who have also passed away since she left.

Right now, Rila’s husband’s family members have been financially supporting her, but as the rent goes up, her stress about making payments does too. This wasn’t the life she had envisioned coming to the U.S.

“I miss him all the time,” Rila says of her husband. “Of course, there are times of happiness and I’m surviving, but things would be so different if he were still here. There would be more joy.”

Rila has been coming to Sapna for years now, first for the English classes, then for the Babysitting co-op program, the Lead Action group, citizenship class, and for various workshops. She has taken on leadership positions and has shown commitment to helping her fellow Bangladeshi women. Rila is also one of Sapna’s babysitters, helping take care of children while mothers are in class.  For her, Sapna is not just a place for learning and classes, but a place where she can feel at home, where she has formed deep friendships, and where she can come for any kind of support. 

“Sapna NYC is like our family. We’re surrounded by family and that feels good. Sometimes when I’m down, I’ll head to Sapna and talk to people, and feel as if I’m with my family. That’s what I like about Sapna. They stand by people who are sad, lonely, in pain or struggling. And they’re always ready to help.”