Small Victories

This story was taken from the Global Refugee Center's blog written by Susannah Williams, the GRC's social media intern.

I’ve learned a lot from the three months I’ve been working with the GRC, but one of the most valuable things I’ve learned is to take pleasure in small victories. I hope and feel that this is an attitude that most of the staff and volunteers share. Dozens of people come through the office every day for classes, for help with their bills, for job applications, even for the simplest of things like diapers, soap or toothpaste.

Most of the time we can help them. It is, after all, our goal as a non-profit.

But sometimes we can’t. Some days the classes are frustrating for students. They couldn’t quite understand what the teacher was saying. Some days we are just out of diapers, especially when everyone comes in needing the same size. For those days when something just doesn’t click, it’s always nice to remember the small victories, every other time that we have helped them, because again, these successes generally outweigh the defeats.

Today I’d like to take a moment to celebrate a small victory that’s been a long time coming. One of the things that I do in the office is college tutoring for one of the students, Abdirashid, who attends community college. Abdirashid is taking a college composition course and at least once a week, I help him edit his papers and assignments for this class. A few weeks ago, we started working on his final paper, an argumentative essay using outside sources.

His first draft was rough: there were a lot of grammar issues, he hadn’t been using outside sources, and his topic didn’t have an argument. These are issues that many beginning writers have, but of course, with ESL students, minor issues are always a bit more complicated. So we’ve been working on the paper for a few weeks. He’s been through a few rough drafts and comments from his instructor and from me.

Today, he asked me to read his essay one last time before he turned it in. I sat down with my editor’s eyes, looking to catch the last few tiny errors that maybe he had missed, but in reading found none. Not only was his grammar and punctuation proficient, but the essay was great. His thesis was clear and concise, his paragraphs were well structured, and his sources were relevant and properly cited; I could see the improvement in his writing from the first essay I had edited.

I literally cheered. I think that I scared Asad, the Co-Executive Director, who asked me what I was doing. After explaining the excellence of the essay, Asad also cheered, congratulating Abdirashid right along with me.

In the grand scheme of the world, these things are small and insignificant. A well-written college composition essay, or a new vocabulary word or even a bar of soap and a pack of diapers won’t change the world.

But at the GRC, it’s the small victories that count, and hopefully, over time, add up to something bigger.

 

05/21/2013

 

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Country Profile: Burma

From north to south the majestic Tibeto-Himalayan Mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. Burma (formerly Myanmar), located in the southeast of Asia is nestled in between the Bay of Bengal, Thailand and Bangladesh. Although the country is rich in natural resources, Burma has one of the poorest economies due to stagnation, mismanagement and isolation. Furthermore, ethnic tensions have forced approximately 3 million Burmese people to flee their homes in search of refuge.

Quick Facts

Country: Burma (Myanmar)

Capital: Rangoon

Population: 55,167, 330

Languages Spoken: Burmese, Karen, Karenni, Rohingya

Majority Religion: Buddhist

History and Government

For a long time Burma was considered a pariah state – a state isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. From 1962 until 2011, the country was dominated by a strict military junta that suppressed all opposition and wielded absolute power over the people. The junta founded the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP), which proclaimed the “Burmese Way to Socialism”. The Party ideology was a mixture of socialism, Buddhism and isolationism.

During the reign if the junta, Burma’s economy plummeted. Burma, despite its great wealth of natural resources – wood, coal, oil, gas, tin, wolfram, lead, zinc, silver, copper, nickel, rubies, sapphires, emeralds – became one of the poorest countries of the world. The result of the socialist economic policy was the growth of the black market and total shortage of all kinds of goods.

The worsening political, economic and humanitarian situation gave way to the rise of a pro-democracy party in 1988 headed by Aung San Suu Kyi. That summer demonstrations led by the National League for Democracy were brutally suppressed by the junta.

The junta ruled until 2010 when Burma held its first general election in over 20 years in attempt to transition form a military-based government into a civilian-based government. In March 2011, President Thein Sein was installed.

Ethnic Tensions

The internal conflict in Burma caused by ethnic tensions is the world’s longest running civil war and began shortly after the country achieved independence from the British in 1948. Burma is divided into 7 divisions of Burma Proper and 7 states of the national minorities – Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Chin, Mon, Arakan and Shan States.

The tensions and violence between these ethnic minorities escalated during the rule of the military junta where all freedom of expression and religion was eradicated. The brutal violence and fear has caused thousands of minorities to flee to the neighboring country of Thailand to seek refuge against persecution. It is estimated that over three million people have fled the country and thousands have been murdered by the government.

Thailand currently hosts some 84,900 registered refugees and an estimated 62,000 unregistered asylum-seekers from Burma in nine camps along the Thai-Burma border constituting the most protracted displacement situations in the world. The prolonged confinement of these refugees in camps has created many social, psychological and protection concerns.

Although the Thailand refugee camps have provided a safer place for many Burmese people, harm is always close by. Ethnic tensions still run high and raids by the Burmese government have left hundreds of people seeking solace dead in the refugee camps.

Ethnic persecution is still a huge problem facing the Burmese people. Running for their lives, over 1,000 Burmese refugees have found their way to Greeley, CO. They come in search of hope – a hope we can all share – the hope of peace.

 

05/14/13

 

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A Makeshift Life

Close your eyes. Think about your life at this moment in time. Picture everything you own or that you have easy access to. What do you see?

A house?

A family?

Health care and the ability to receive medical attention?

More than enough food?

A car?

The choice to travel wherever you please?

Clothes?

A warm bed to sleep in?

Clean water?

Now, close your eyes again. Imagine what life would be like without any of these luxuries. Imagine having to give everything you own up without any warning. Imagine your life as you know it, disappear in the blink of an eye.

How would you survive? Where would you go?

Refugee Camps

It seems terrifying for many people of this world to even think about giving up their possessions, but sadly, this is the case for most of the world’s 10.5 million refugees (UNHCR).

When war, violence, famine or fear for family’s safety force refugees to flee their home, they leave behind most of their belongings. Those who do manage to grab a few basic items face the risk of having them stolen by bandits. After hours, days and sometimes weeks on a tumultuous journey to safety, many are happy just to still have their lives intact.

Safety does not come in the form of luxuries, a soft bed to rest your head or a feast. Safety, for refugees, comes in the form of a refugee camp – a temporary squalid tent. A place where they are dependent on handouts of food, probably have no clean water or access to health care, are surrounded by outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, hepatitis and malaria and live a life of uncertainty.

But refugees have no choice in living here. Having fled conflicts of unimaginable proportions they are relieved to have found a safer place. They construct makeshift shelters from whatever materials happen to be available – sticks, plastic sheeting, mud and stones. In the very best case scenario, humanitarian agencies will provide the basics: food, clean drinking water and rudimentary health care. But with the refugee population constantly growing, these agencies are struggling to keep up and meet all the needs of every refugee.

The hope among refugees is that they will be resettled quickly to a safe place, or even return to the homes that they have left behind. After all, a refugee camp is supposed to be a temporary solution, not a permanent residence. Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, 7.8 million people fall under the category of a “perpetual refugee” – a person who has lived in a refugee camp and has been deprived of basic human rights for over five years.  They have no way of knowing how long they will have to stay in that camp. And so they wait, barely surviving and clutching on to a thread of hope. 

While there is no way of knowing the exact number of refugee camps worldwide, one fact is clear: while war, conflict, drought and persecution still exist in the world, refugees still exist, refugee camps still exist. 

Close your eyes one more time. Imagine a world where refugees have all their basic needs met. A world where no one is suffering. A world in peace.

What will you do today to make that possible?

 

Donate to the Global Refugee Center today – Give a refugee their basic needs and rights.

 

05/06/2013

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GRC Celebrations!

April 22nd through 26th was an exciting time for the Global Refugee Center as the Spring 2013 Semester came to en end. Students studied hard and took their end-of-semester tests. The GRC is excited to announce that 63 per cent of students passed and are moving up to the next level of ESL class! The GRC also celebrated the hard work of our dedicated teacher and office volunteers. Relive these celebrations through a picture story!

The Sprouts class with their teacher Vicki and their diplomas.

 

Beginners Class with their diplomas and teacher, Eric.

100 per cent of students in Level 1 passed! Here they are with their teachers Ana and Ruby.

 

Level 2 class!

Level 4 class with their teachers!

The delicious graduation cake!

It's graduation party time!

Volunteer Appreciation Lunch! So thankful for all of the GRC's wonderful volunteers and all the work they do!

Thanks to all of our food donors for making our Volunteer Appreciation lunch delicious!

Volunteers and staff enjoying lunch.

Staff members Anna, Ally, Tsigereda and volunteers Bebak and Ariel.

 

Congratulations to all of our graduates and a huge thank you to all of our volunteers! Classes resume on May 13th, 2013. If you are interested in volunteering at the GRC please contact Anna Taquet at anna.taquet@eaccolorado.org!

 

04/29/13

 

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Meet a GRC Volunteer: Dennis Quesenberry

From following his heart to Greeley and making education a priority in his life, Dennis has been an outstanding volunteer for the Global Refugee Center. Learn more about Dennis and how he came to teach at the GRC!

Rebekah Swanson: Where are you originally from?

Dennis Quesenberry: California: Sacramento – San Joaquin County

RS: When did you move to Greeley?

DQ: I moved here in 1972, so I guess I’ve been in Greeley for just over 40 years.

RS: Why did you move to Greeley?

DQ: I fell in love, simple as that. I met and married a girl who had just finished her masters at UNC to be a reading teacher so I moved to Greeley to be with her.

RS: What was your previous employment?

DQ: Teacher. I was given a student body scholarship to go to the University of my choice so I went to the University of San Francisco. It was in school that I met and married my wife and moved to Greeley. I finished up my undergrad at the University of Northern Colorado and received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. With that degree I’ve taught in three different schools around the Greeley area and have gone back to school to complete two master’s degrees.

RS: When did you start volunteering at the GRC?

DQ: I started about a year ago in March, so March 2012.

RS: How did you hear about the GRC?

DQ: There was an advertisement in the newspaper that they needed volunteer teachers. I’m a retired teacher so it seemed like a good fit.

RS: Did you know that there were refugees in Greeley before you came to the GRC?

DQ: No, not really. I wasn’t really even sure what a refugee was.

RS: What class do you teach now?

DQ: GED

RS: What has been your favorite part of teaching?

DQ: Personally it has been a privilege for me to be of help to other people and share the knowledge I have with them. I have a good academic background and have been a student and a scholar all my life and, because of that, I feel that I have something to offer to others.

Teaching is a gift that I have and it my gift to use to help people meet their hearts desires whatever that may be. Ultimately, teaching at the GRC brings me great pleasure and makes me feel worthwhile – that I am helping make a difference in people’s lives.

RS: Have you witnessed any big successes during your time at the GRC?

DQ: I think the biggest success is that people feel welcomed at the GRC. They are taken care of and are cared for. To me that is the greatest success.

RS: What keeps you coming back every day?

DQ: It’s not only the feeling that you’re giving back but it’s the people. If I can continue to be helpful to these refugees and give them something that they need, then that brings great joy to me. The most important thing is that each person is a child of God and is special. I want to make sure that I honor the refugees and their lives to let them know that they are important and they deserve our help.

RS: There are many people in this world that have negative feelings towards refugees. What sort of advice can you give to these people?

DQ: I think it ultimately comes down to their belief system. If you profess Christianity, then I would suggest that you read the Sermon on the Mount. It’s all about what it means to be a Christian and the main message is love. How do we love? We do it by not discriminating or closing the door on anyone but including him or her in everything. We are all part of the human family.

To Americans I would say to look at their own family’s history – their ancestors were immigrants at some point. Isn’t it hypocritical to have negative feelings towards immigrants and refugees then? America was founded and is based on taking in people – just look at Ellis Island and all the people who landed there.

I believe that one reason why people are unsure of immigrants is because of fear, mostly the fear of the unknown. But the more we know, the more we can appreciate. Love casts out all fears. We need to look beyond fear of the unknown and approach new things and people in a different way. What can we learn from new people? How can we celebrate our differences? How can we work together instead of separate ourselves from one another?

We are all fellow human beings just trying to survive, wouldn’t it be easier if we all worked together?

Rapid Questions

RS: Tea or coffee?

DQ: Coffee

RS: Cat or dog?

DQ: Dog.

RS: Baseball or Basketball?

DQ: Baseball.

RS: Favorite season?

DQ: Summer.

RS: Favorite restaurant?

DQ: Well I don’t eat out a lot but I guess Roma’s.

RS: If you could visit anywhere in the world where would you go?

DQ: China.

RS: If you could be any fruit or vegetable what would you be and why?

DQ: An orange because they’re refreshing.

RS: What is one lesson you have learned in your life that you want to share?

DQ: I’ve learned the less ego-centric I am, the happier I am. When I think about myself all the time I feel restricted, but when I think about others, it frees me.

 

Volunteers like Dennis are the backbone of the GRC. In 2012 alone, the GRC had over 100 volunteers clocking in approximately 10,460 hours of work. We could not do all the life-changing work we do without them.

If you want to learn more about volunteer opportunities, email our volunteer coordinator, Anna Taquet, at anna.taquet@eaccolorado.org.

 

04/22/13 

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Adventurous April

From workers rights trainings, to government roundtable discussions to making Worry Dolls with children, the Global Refugee Center has been busy improving the lives of refugees and expanding our outreach.

April has been a busy month for the Global Refugee Center – and it’s only the middle of the month!

 

OSHA Workers Rights Training

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration partnered with the GRC to create two workers rights trainings that were presented in both Somali and Burmese. The trainings were presented through two different sessions and included topics such as workers compensation, health and safety in the workplace, who to report to with issues of injuries, harassment and malfunctioning equipment and the best ways to interact with supervisors. The trainings were given over a two-day period that allowed a wide variety of refugees to come and learn. In total, 35 refugees were in attendance.

“These trainings were vital to the employed refugees,” says Colette West, the GRC’s co-Executive Director. “Because the trainings were given in their mother language, retention of all these important issues was much higher. They now understand how to act in the workplace making them all around better employees and boosted their confidence levels.”

 

USCIS Roundtable

The U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services hosts a quarterly roundtable meeting that brings together members from the FBI, ICE, TSA security workers, border patrol and organizations working with refugees and immigrants to discuss vital issues about best ways to serve the refugee and immigrant population.

This past week the GRC was fortunate enough to be the host of the spring USCIS roundtable meeting. People from all over Colorado made the trek to Greeley to participate. The GRC was able to give a short presentation about the work we do, the people we serve and how we are changing lives.

“We feel really grateful that people from so many different organizations could come to the GRC and see our facility and the work we do,” says Ally Walker, the GRC’s Program Coordinator. “I hope that we can work more closely with all these different agencies and organizations in the future to improve the quality of life for refugees and immigrants.”

 

United Way’s Children’s Festival

The GRC was fortunate enough to have a booth at this years Children’s Festival hosted by the United Way of Weld County. The day offered free developmentally appropriate activities for children including arts and crafts, entertainment, dance and an obstacle course! It was a day that brought the community together to engage with the children of Weld County.

The GRC hosted a booth where children could make Worry Dolls – small colorful dolls traditionally made in Guatemala. A Worry Doll is made by wrapping colorful string around a wooden peg and drawing a face on it. Children can tell their dolls all their worries, troubles and problems and the doll takes them away!

“It was so much fun to participate in this years Children’s Festival and see all the different organizations that came out in support of the children of Weld County,” says Walker. “The GRC was able to form new partnerships, gain exposure and have a great time meeting so many different children!”

 

While the first half of April has been a busy month, everyone at the GRC is excited to see what the second half has in store for us!

 

04/15/13

 

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Country Profile: Somalia

Currently there are an estimated 86,000 people with Somali origins living in America –the largest refugee population from a single country. Over the past three years, in cities such as Minneapolis, Atlanta and Greeley, Somali culture, dress and tradition has become much more prevalent. But what has happened in their country that has caused so many people to flee for their lives? 

Quick Facts

Country: Somalia

Capital: Mogadishu

Population: 10,085,638

Languages Spoken: Somali and Arabic

Majority Religion: Muslim

History and Government

Located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia is a country torn apart by civil war and famine. The country was established in 1960 when British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland united to declare independence.

Life was stable until 1969 when a coup headed by General Mohamed Siad Barre, backed by the Soviet Union, turned the country’s political system into an authoritarian socialist rule characterized by fear, persecution and torture.

The regime was overthrown in 1991 by opposition troops – a move that would throw the country into a civil war that is still being fought to this day despite UN peacekeeping missions.

The country remained without a government until the Somalia National Peace Conference in 2000 established an interim government known as the Transitional National Government (TNG). When the TNG failed to establish adequate peacekeeping laws, a new interim government was created known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) headed by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed who resigned in 2008.

Somalia’s unstable and changing government is now headed by Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud since he took the role of president in September 2012.

Drought and Refugees

If civil war and instability did not already affect the country enough, the 2011 East Africa drought has caused millions of people to flee the country, severe malnutrition and death among thousands. The drought began in July of 2011 and has been called the worst drought in 60 years. With seasonal rains interrupted for two consecutive years, the drought primarily affected farmers and the farmlands in southern Somalia rather than the northern pastoralists.

Since the droughts’ beginning over 10,000 Somalis have died and more than 920,000 Somalis have fled to neighboring countries of Kenya and Ethiopia. It is estimated that in the height of the drought Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp was hosting 440,000 refugees with a capacity of 90,000 and Ethiopia’s Dolo Odo camp hosted 110,000 refugees.

In the years in these camps infant mortality rose three-fold, an upsurge of sexual violence against girls and women rose and outbreaks of cholera, HIV/AIDS and measles were common.

Somalia is a country that has suffered greatly since its inception – a country torn apart by civil war, famine and disease. Although many Somali’s are returning to their hometown, Somalia and its people are still at high risk. It is only through the help of others that this country and the Somali people will be rebuilt and rejuvenated.

 

04/08/13

 

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The Silent French G

This story was taken from the Global Refugee Center's blog written by Susannah Williams, the GRC's social media intern.

“How do you spell onion?” I asked the Level One ESL class during my first lessons as a substitute for the GRC.

We had started class reviewing classroom vocabulary and spelling and, at the request of the students, continued to practice spelling words beyond pen, desk, chair, etc.

I thought that grocery store vocabulary seemed practical, so I began naming off fruits and vegetables for the students to spell. After we’d cycled through a few, apple, tomatoes, potatoes, easily, it seemed that onion presented a bit of a challenge.

The class was a bit stumped. We got as far as O N I before the crickets started chirping. And then one brave soul, Jeanette, spoke up, “G.”

“G?” I hesitated, the dry erase marker hovering over the whiteboard.

“G,” she said confidently.

I put the G on the board (this is one of the tricky things about teaching: do you let the student make the mistake before you correct them? Or do you stop before the mistake takes place in their brain?). My curiosity prevailed as to how onion could be spelled with a G, so I let her continue.

After a few shouted letters and hesitant marks on the board, I asked if she would like to come up and spell the word. At the board, she took the marker, pondered for a second, erased my G, then the I that came before it and filled out the word: ONGNON.        

I pondered the spelling and the only familiar word that came to my mind was Mignon, as in Filet Mignon.

“That’s very French of you,” I said.

She looked confused. I pointed to the letters. “This spelling in French makes the same sound that you’re looking for, the nion, but in English it looks like this.” I took the marker and spelled out onion below her interpretation.

The power of our human brains is the power to make connections, find patterns and make strange things more familiar. It’s the connection that takes the sounds of the English word onion and translates them into the familiar, the French combination of letters creating the same sound “gnon,” for a West African refugee.   

For me, teaching ESL at the GRC, it’s the ability to connect my limited French vocabulary (Filet Mignon) to a misspelling of an English word with a similar sound (onion).

For refugees, displaced from their homes, taken away from everything familiar, food, language, family, the only lives they’ve ever known, the desire to make connections becomes even stronger and more necessary. Language is one of the strongest connections that we, as humans can make. It defines us, roots us in our heritage, but also has the ability to make or break us. Without language, we cannot communicate. The GRC is trying to provide the opportunity for refugees to connect to a new community through a new language, minus the silent French G.

 

Click here to read more from Susannah's blog.

 

 

03/25/2013

 

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Overcoming Obstacles

What defines success? Can anyone truly measure success?

It seems that success can never be truly defined as it has so many different meanings for different people and different cultures. For many people in the American culture, success is defined by money but for the Ethiopian culture, success can be defined by your academic achievements or the size of your family. While successes are different for every culture, they are all as equally valid and legitimate.

Refugee Success

"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, but by the obstacles that they have overcome." Booker T. Washington

The Global Refugee Center sees successes happening every day. However, the successes we see are vastly different than what some people would call success. Refugees in Greeley are not becoming multi-millionaires, they are not driving fancy cars and living in expensive houses, but they are learning how to navigate life in America – a culture and country so different from their own. 

Refugees in America have overcome and continue to overcome huge obstacles daily. These are some of the GRC's success stories:

Jackline Hatungimana

Jackline, 32, came to the United States from Tanzania after fleeing violence in her native country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Jackline, her husband Jone, and their five children found their way to Greeley in 2011 in search of work. Jackline soon came to the GRC and began to attend all the GRC’s health education seminars where she learned to navigate Greeley’s health care system. In the spring of 2012, Jackline needed to have surgery. Rather than being afraid and worried about what to do, Jackline used the knowledge she gained and scheduled herself for surgery. On the day of surgery, Jackline was confident in her English and understood the doctor’s explanation of the procedure as well as the pre and post-op instructions. Following her successful surgery, Jackline continues to use the knowledge she has learned when it comes to the health care system and is still 100% healthy!

Bisharo Ahmed

Bisharo came to the United States from Kenya in 2008 after fleeing from Somalia and living in a Kenyan refugee camp for 15 years. At the age of 27, Bisharo was selected for resettlement and found her way to Arizona. After hearing about job opportunities in Greeley, Bisharo moved and began to fill out job applications. After struggling through these applications, Bisharo realized that learning English was the ticket to a better life. At 27, Bisharo had never attended school before, had never held a pencil and had never done homework. She started out in the most basic level of English and is now currently in the GRC’s Level 4 English class – the highest level. With better English skills Bisharo says: “I do better in my job because now I can understand all the safety and company rules. I can fill out my own applications and contribute to the community.”

Celebrating Achievements

Learning to hold a pencil or schedule a surgery may seem like very minor achievements in life, especially for Americans. Most of us grow up in a society where we go to school every day from the time we are five and know basic things like how to go to a doctor or where to get medicine. However, when you have not grown up in this society, these tasks can be daunting and baffling.

The success of refugees in American cannot be undermined. These are huge accomplishments and should be celebrated rather than looked over as minor achievements.

Let us not only celebrate the refugees who have overcome obstacles in their life but continue to help them overcome these obstacles so they can achieve success in America.

 

03/18/2013

 

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The Heart of the Refugee Community

What if catastrophe struck your town? What if a natural disaster, war or a military attack forced us all to flee with just the clothes on our back?  Where would we find shelter? What would it be like not to know how long we would be displaced? How would we survive in a foreign country where no one speaks our language? How would each of us deal with the despair of being uprooted in a disrupted society?

These are questions that the world’s refugees must face every day. Millions must flee their home country every day with no personal belongings, no sense of security and no knowledge of their future.

A Sense of Belonging

“The voiceless need an advocate – a person to be their rock through their journey to eliminate fears and doubts,” says Colette West, the co-Executive Director of the Global Refugee Center.

“I will continue to work at the GRC until I see all refugees in Greeley become self-sufficient.”

The Global Refugee Center stands as a beacon of hope in Greeley for the members of the refugee community. A place where any person of any ethnicity may come and take ESL classes, get help filling out job applications, learn about the American health care system, or simply to be somewhere where they feel welcome and at home in a foreign land.

As KUNC, the Community Radio for Northern Colorado, stated in their recent article, the GRC is a “community within a community” – a place where people feel a sense of belonging, the sense that some one is looking out for their rights.

A Glimpse of the GRC

The Global Refugee Center offers programs in education, health, finance, culture and civil & human rights all with the aim of helping the refugee population achieve self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

The center is almost completely run by volunteers – volunteer teachers, office workers, case management interns and day care helpers. In 2012, over 100 volunteers served at the GRC putting in over 10,000 hours of work all for the simple gratification of knowing they are changing the lives of those in need.

“We depend on them,” says Asad Abdi, the co-Executive Director of the GRC. “All we get is from the receiving community.”

The GRC could not continue the life-changing work we strive to do without the support of the Greeley community, the Colorado community and the American community.

A Light in the Darkness

To be a glimmer of hope for the refugee community is not only our job at the GRC, it is our privilege. To accompany so many amazing and inspiring people on their new journey in life is one of the greatest joys and delights.

Help a refugee – be a pillar of strength – transform a life.

 

03/08/2013

 

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Resilience in the Face of Persecution

“While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage to not only survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives.” Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The practice of granting asylum to people fleeing from persecution in foreign lands is one of the earliest trademarks of civilization. Protecting refugees is now the core mandate of many countries. Over the past century, global migration patterns have become increasingly more common.

Refugees depend on the kindness and hospitality of host countries. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death - or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights (UNHCR).

Stereotypes                                                                                                  

The term “refugee” carries many different connotations, and while some are good, the majority can be negative and hurtful. The most common stereotypes people have about the refugees in America are:

-Refugees are here illegally.

-Refugees carry harmful diseases.

-The number of refugees is decreasing daily.

These stereotypes and misconceptions fuel the negative feeling that some people have towards the globally dispersed population and deeply impact the lives, the initiatives and the wellbeing of refugees.

The Facts

It would come at no surprise that these stereotypes are all incorrect. A refugee is someone who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted, is outside his or her country of origin and has no hope for returning. Every refugee in the United States has been invited by not only the Office for Refugee Resettlement, but also by the President, Congress and Homeland Security – unlike an illegal immigrant.

Included in this invitation are a health screening, immunizations (ensuring that no diseases or epidemics are brought into America), a cultural orientation and a loan for travel that must be repaid. Once in the United States, volunteer agencies support the newly arrived refugees by providing housing, initial ESL classes and counseling.

Finally, the number of refugees is exponentially growing and there is no doubt that this number will only continue to grow. Many people do not realize that there are currently 43.7 million displaced people in the world, with 22 million marked as refugees. Currently, around 2 million refugees live in America. In 2013, the US government has a goal of resettling 80,000 refugees in America.

Why Should We Care?

Welcoming refugees is a core part of who we are as a nation. It reflects our national values. America was founded as a place of refuge. The Statue of Liberty welcomes the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to be free. America welcomes to our shores those fleeing hunger, poverty, persecution, and desperation.

Our culture, our history, and our character are defined by the refugees’ contributions, by the Americans they became and strive to be. It is how we become who we are.

“Refugees' resiliency and continued faith in humanity in the face what are, in most cases, unimaginable circumstances (war, persecution, violence, resettlement) drives me to do better every day to implement the best programs I can to make life just a little bit easier for refugees who have been resettled in Greeley,” says Ally Walker, the Program Coordinator for the Global Refugee Center in Greeley, CO.

“I love working at the GRC because every day there is a new success story; it might be as small as someone finally being able to say ‘Good morning, how are you!’ and understand my response or as big as someone becoming an American citizen but it is truly inspiring no matter how small the step.”

Refugees are in America, in Colorado, and in Greeley. It is up to all U.S. citizens to invite them in, to help them, to welcome them and to change their lives.

How will you change a life today?

 

03/01/2013