What comes to mind when you hear the word “refugee”? According to the United Nations, a refugee is someone who “... has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence." But like any official description, it only provides a framework for understanding.
You can’t really grasp what a refugee is until you begin to hear the stories of men and women who have fled their homeland, trying to find a place of safety.
A story like that of B*, who came to Charlotte in 2012, from a refugee camp in Tanzania. He fled to the camp because of armed rebels, who murdered innocent civilians regardless of political affiliation. He was the only survivor of one such mass killing.
Or the story of H*, a member of the Karen tribe in Burma. She dared to stand up against injustice by confronting pillaging Burmese soldiers. Because of her courage, she had to flee the country.
Refugees have been resettled in Charlotte from countries such as Somalia, Burma, Vietnam, Iraq, Nepal and the Democratic Republic of Congo. While life might be safer once they arrive on American soil, it’s still very hard.
Jobs are scarce when you don’t speak English or Spanish. Education is hard when you’re illiterate in even your mother tongue. Western credit systems become a trap that lure you in. Your apartment becomes a prison because you’re sent to live in the worst areas of Charlotte. And for many, there’s no guide to help them navigate the complexities of American life.
And that’s where you come in. Charlotte has several fantastic organizations dedicated to being that helping hand to refugee families. But there are never enough volunteers to help with all the needs. If you want to get involved, get connected with a group
Want to learn more? To better understand the refugee crisis and how to help, check out the UNHCR site.