Here in the United States, some of the greatest challenges we face amount to suffering through unemployment, or worse... having our home wiped out by a tornado or hurricane. But even in such circumstances we're quick to recover. There's government assistance, charitable contributions. At some point, we build a new house or finally find a new job. Our trials are not insurmountable. By contrast, in other countries, citizens may risk their lives simply by speaking out against the government or expressing religious preferences, or suffer the travesty of ethnic cleansing. It's no surprise that those people would flee their countries and start a new life somewhere else.
Some of those refugees end up here in Denver where they are welcome, and greeted with support systems.
On this week's Connect & Collaborate with ICOSA radio program, you'll meet Jennifer Gueddiche and Matt Watts of the African Community Center, Joe Wismann-Horther of the Colorado Department of Human Services and Sisay Teklu of Community Enterprise Development Services.... all organizations the help settle refugees starting over in Denver.
The African Community Center opened in Denver in the Spring of 2001, and began resettling refugees from the Sudan. Since then they have welcomed refugees from other countries, helping them rebuild safe and sustainable lives here, through the support of networks of people, services and community activities.
From the moment they arrive at DIA, there are five years of services, support and programs to help them make a smooth transition. This includes access to education, government services and employment training.
Jennifer's most poignant memory goes back to the first family she ever picked up at the airport, back when we could meet travelers at the gate. "I was sent out to meet a family, and it didn't quite hit me what I was doing." she recalls, "I just saw the look in her eyes, of complete fear, and then when she saw me and saw the sign with her name on it, I saw the relief in her eyes. To this day, it's why I do this work. That could have been me."
Together with the Colorado Department of Human Services, which also coordinates integration services among multiple agencies, and Community Enterprise Development Services which helps refugees to obtain financial independence through home and business ownership, entrepreneurship and business loans - many families are able to settle into a new life and work toward the American Dream.
To hear more, listen to the entire Connect & Collaborate program this Saturday at 10:00 AM on KNUS 710 – or download our podcast – you’ll find it at the top of this article.
World Refugee Day activities run extensively from June 11 - June 23 - go to www.ACC-DEN.org to view their calendar and find out how to get involved with the celebration as well as how to become a First Friend.