I spent an evening listening to stories about refugees who live in Boise. Boise is a refugee center so we have lots of refugees here. Refugee is a name tag given to people who had to flee their homelands or die. They were forced to leave behind family, friends, home, possessions, and familiarity because to stay meant certain death.
One of the speakers was from the Republic of Congo, born and raised near its border with Uganda. He had a normal childhood, went to school, and grew up with parents and brothers. Then one day bombs rained down on their village because they’d taken in refugees from Uganda. He and his family survived it, but it was the last day he ever went to school. Several years later when he was about 12, mobs raided his village, killing whole families. He remembers a mob coming into his house, but he must have been knocked unconscious because the next thing he remembered was waking up on the floor next to the dead bodies of his mother and father. His house was on fire, and his brother was dragging him through the flames. They ran into the jungle and never went back. Though both were gravely injured, they walked for days until they crossed the Ugandan border and were taken to a refugee camp. There he and his brother lived without knowing what would happen to them, with no place to go, no family to watch over them, no place to call home. They had nothing.
After two years of being in the refugee camp, a group of Americans came to help, but had no plan on how to do it. The set up an office that was very quickly overwhelmed with people wanting in. Fights broke out and it was utter chaos. The Americans set up a board that had names on it of the people they would see that day. If your name wasn’t on that board, you were not to be anywhere around there. Early mornings, people would go to the board to look for their names. No name, no help. For 12 years, he stood in line looking for his name, but it was never there. In that time, he fell in love and married a woman. His wife’s family name appeared on the board and after many extensive interviews, his wife and her family were taken to the U.S., but he was left behind. He eventually got to the U.S., but had no idea where his wife was. After two years of searching, he found her on FaceBook and they were reunited. They have two children and he has a graphic design job at a big firm here in town.
This is one success story of many. What I learned is that refugees are given support for three to eight months, then it’s cut off. They must pay back the price of their plane ticket to the country. They are eager to find jobs and homes. Depression is a big problem which is understandable. Being thrust into a strange environment that you may or may not speak the language of must be horrifically frightening.
When asked what they felt they needed help with most, all of our speakers said kindness, understanding, and friendship. They felt very alone in a strange land with strange customs, and they all wanted friends who would help them understand. Those are things that money can’t buy, but everyone can afford to give them.
Heartwarming Small-Town Romances and Thrilling Mysteries