Refugees Have Powerful Stories to Tell
More than ever before, the world has its eye on refugees. Between travel bans heard round the world and photos of families fleeing war-torn countries splashed across the news, the public is taking notice.
Today is World Refugee Day—a chance for all of us to engage even further in this worthy cause. According to the UN Refugee Agency, an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from their homes. More than 21 million of these are refugees, half of whom are under the age of 18.
Giving refugees a voice
Here at Oliver Russell, we care about refugees. We want them to find happiness and peace in our country. We believe they should have a platform to tell their stories. That’s why we recently invited refugee ZuZu Kamel from Mosul, Iraq to speak to our clients and friends during a lunch hour presentation.
At just seven years old, ZuZu saw someone killed right in front of her home. She remembers Saddam Hussein being in power and American soldiers arriving in Iraq. She has vivid memories of soldiers giving children toys and candy.
Over the years she saw many unspeakable things in her home country, but her real trouble began when she turned 16. Her family was targeted because her father worked in a hospital translating for wounded American soldiers who couldn’t communicate with Arabic doctors. Her father moved them countless times to escape persecution.
After her grandfather’s home (where she was living) was sprayed with bullets and the family endured a horrific car accident, they left for the U.S., eventually landing in Boise. Although they desperately missed family and friends, they were grateful for the chance to start over.
Life lessons from a refugee
During her presentation, ZuZu shared these key insights with us:
Idaho opens its arms
Here in Idaho we’ve welcomed refugees since 1975, when Governor John Evans created the Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program in response to a surge of refugees who were fleeing the overthrow of U.S.-supported governments in Southeast Asia. In the beginning resettlement efforts focused on refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, but soon expanded to include Eastern European refugees escaping oppressive Soviet regimes.
In the ‘90s Idaho resettled more than 5,000 refugees, more than half of whom were from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Civil war and ethnic cleansing forced them from their homeland. Today the state mostly resettles refugees from Iraq, Congo, Burma, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Host refugees at your next event
Why not invite a refugee to speak at your next event? If you live in Boise, you can contact the Refugee Speakers Bureau organized through the Idaho Office for Refugees. You could even invite ZuZu—she’s part of the speakers bureau. Learn more here.