“I’ve been in the same shoes.”
“My name is Habiba Boru and I came to the United States in April of 2000. I’m originally from Ethiopia, but I came here from Kenya — a refugee camp in Kenya. Oh boy, my experiences in a refugee camp were really, really tough. As a young girl,
when I came to the refugee camp, I was about 4. And we just, you know, ran away from our home country because of a war. And we were just relocated by the United Nations in a refugee camp — Kakuma.
Kakuma Refugee Camp
And at this time, when we came over there, we were separated. All my family was separated. Me, my mother and my father — it was just the three of us. I have other siblings. I have five siblings older than me that were left behind during that
tough time. So they were with my grandmother. They ran a different direction and I ran a different direction. And my parents were just able to grab me and run for safety. So, when we came into the refugee camp it was very tough to adjust.
Because when we first came we were the first refugees who were resettled in Kakuma refugee camp, which was in 1992. It was us and the Lost Boys from Sudan. And at this time when we first came there was nothing. It was just like trees everywhere.
You would see like snakes in the bushes. You would see poisonous scorpions and spiders everywhere. So when we first came, what they did was they cut down the trees. The United Nations just gave everybody a tent to sleep in. So, not knowing
when these poisonous animals or stuff is going to come inside and somebody is going to get bitten. So, it was really, really tough being in that type of situation.
We didn’t have water and if there was water you have to get in line. It’s like first come first served. And if that water runs out, then you don’t get water. You have to wait until the next day or the following day or travel a long distance
to go find water. They provided us with a ration, food for survival basically. But for you to go and get this ration it was a struggle itself because you have to be in line. There’s like thousands of refugees over there and they call them
by groups, but there are so many people from different cultures from different ethnicities. And people get up in the morning sometimes at like 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to get in line. so they can get in first and get their ration. Because
if you come later you have to wait until your group is called again next week or so. So it’s a very tough situation to be in in a refugee camp.
I’m currently a job developer here. I help clients, or my fellow refugees, help them find jobs and connect them to the community, too, sometimes. I can relate to them. I know their struggles. I know what makes them happy. I know what they
need. Because I have to empathize. I’ve been in the same shoes. I personally speak five different languages. So when they come, I’m able to communicate with anybody who speaks those five languages. And if not, there’s somebody else on the
side that’s always there that has an extra language under their sleeve. Working with them, sharing stories, laughter. Sometimes we sit down and just talk about things that everybody has been through and that just — it brings out. It’s really
nice working with them and I love it. You can’t change it for nothing.”
“What is your name?”
Omar Ahmed: “I have to teach them basic English. For them, people who cannot even read and cannot write. Like ‘What is your name? How long have you been in the United States? When did you come to the United States?’ So that’s what basically we teach them
“We’re doing a lot of things to them but you know that when you’ve never been to school, it’s difficult to understand. You repeat, you’re reading ‘What is your name? What is your name?’ And then after five minutes you came back and say ‘What
did I teach you today?’ He say, ‘Ah. Teacher, I don’t know. I don’t know teacher.’ Again, again again. It’s difficult. It’s a headache. Yeah, it’s a headache. It’s not easy.”
“It’s the same like when I came here I didn’t speak any English. So it’s the same thing with them, too. Some of them, they live here only like six months, some of them they live one year. And they never, they never went to school back home.
- Population : 9,832,017 (2009)
- Official Languages: Somali and Arabic
- Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance : 9–22 % (2000–2007)
- Adult Literacy Rate: (15 years and over, 2000–2006
- Female: 25.8%
- Male: 49.7%
- Total: 37.8%
Everybody is doing farming and doing their job. So this is a good opportunity for our kids and also our families, and everybody that cannot speak English. It’s better for them to have this opportunity.”
“We the People”
Omar: “I’ve taught 70 people since I’ve started, but 25 people have passed the test.
From October 1, 2009, through August 31, 2015 more than 4,495,000 naturalization tests were administered nationwide. For those applicants taking both the English and civics tests, the overall national pass rate as of August 2015 is 91 percent.
The test is not easy because when you’re going to take the test, when you go for example, you drive here three hours to Buffalo. And you went there, you don’t know what they’re going to ask you — the questions. It’s not only asking questions
and you can answer.
You also need to write something, too. If you fail or you miss only two, he says, ‘OK, I know the questions you answer is good but, just, you need to go back and you have to learn how to write again.’ So, and then tomorrow when you come back,
and you say, ‘OK, I want to write it again. So, OK, vice president, who’s the vice president?’ Tomorrow if you’re going to go, he’s going to ask you different questions. Not like before.
They’re ready. I’m for sure I’m ready. And I tested them for the whole week and we’ve taken training without looking and I want to say it and they answer too. They’ve finished 100 questions.”
“I am so happy with my life right now”
“My name is Omar Ahmed and I was born in Somalia but I grew up in Kenya and I’m 35 years old. I came to the USA on September 8, 2003. It’s not easy to come to United States I was like waiting for United States to come almost 20 years or 18
years I believe and I was in a refugee camp in Kenya.
Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya
It’s just the life there is very difficult. It’s no food, no water. When you go to market, no job, no nothing. It’s difficult, it’s difficult. It’s amazing, amazing. So if I can talk about that one maybe I would feel like crying, but the life
right now there is difficult. In my country they have suffered wars, people fighting each other and the reason why I go is they said to get a better life, get a good education and because the United States is a good opportunity.
When I came to this country I didn’t speak any English but I proved myself, to become self-sufficient. It’s a great country. The way I see I want to change my life right now. Everybody has a dream here, but my dream is to finish school. In
college, I can get a better job.
Actually what I’m doing here right now is several things, like, for example: teaching the ESL class, teaching the Citizen class, filling out the paperwork…whatever they need. I love my job, what I’m doing right now and I have to continue
to do this job. I am so happy with my life right now.”
“Immigrants and Refugees are hard Working people”
Volunteer: Vicky Chan
“I’m Vicky Chan and I am from Syracuse University and my major is International Relations and Citizenship and Civic Engagement. I’m from Boston MA and I’m here because it’s part of my CC major, I’m required to do a community placement so I chose RISE because I wanted to help with the refugees and the immigrants. Coming from a foreign country as a refugee or immigrant it is definitely really scary, just being in a new country, RISE really helps with that helping with the settlement process and just the day to day tasks like booking appointments or helping their children find schools, it’s all the little things.
I think I’m really passionate about helping the immigrants and refugees because being an immigrant myself, I understand the struggle of being an immigrant, and I just applied to be a citizen a few months ago, so I definitely want to help out and help them practice on how to become a citizen. So I come her on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to prepare clients for the naturalization exams. I get really proud, sometimes I’ll be teaching them Atlantic Oceans on the east coast and then the Pacific Ocean is on the west coast, and at the end of two hours they got it, so that makes me really proud.
I came here in February and I’ve seen a lot of progress they have begun to memorize the 100 questions provided by the United States Immigrant and Citizenship Services. Immigrants and refugees are actually really hard working people and I know that under this administration there are a lot of opinions around immigrants and refugees, but most of them just want a better life for themselves. I ask them why did you come to America, and they say there is a lot of war, there is a lot of violence, it’s just really unsafe for them, they just want the best for their family. So that’s what I would tell people about RISE. We are just trying to help them to get a better life.”
“I just found the place where I belong”
“My name is Khadijah Muse and I came from a refugee camp in Kenya. In July I came from Rio, Texas and they were working on getting this kind of office but it broke apart. They didn’t have the funds or anything so the people were struggling with everyday life, they get a letter in the mail they have no where to go to, they knock on door to door to find someone to read to them and RISE being here.. When I came here I found out this kind of office existed and it’s right here. I was like wow.. this is amazing.
So when I came here, to this office I just felt released of all the stress and the depression I was going through of being in America because I just found the place where I belong, where my people are there, people that understand me and that are always there to help. I’m a Bridging Case Manager. When you don’t know where to turn to sometimes they say like “I came here I didn’t know nobody and I was lost, I didn’t know where to go”.
So I help with the online cases, like applying, for food stamps, certifying doctor’s appointments. Like any letter they get in the mail, translating because people are like.. they have one place where they can rely on, depend on this is always there to help, Like anytime they come with the letter, with the paper, any kind of emergency, they get the help they need. My favorite part about RISE is just that working here I get to see the whole community. All refugees, with their different experiences, with their different lives, coming together in one place and that they rely on one place that can always help them.”
“I see how challenging it can be”
Volunteer: Perrine Wasser
My name is Perrine Wasser, I’m from Scranton, PA, I go to Syracuse University, I’m studying Sociology and Citizenship in Civic Engagement. For my CCE major we have a community placement requirement, so I’m teaching citizenship class here at RISE.
RISE is an inclusive community center, it offers refugees and immigrants a place to connect with each other, a place to find employment and education, and it helps them to become a part of the Syracuse community.
I personally love the English and citizenship classes because all of the clients that come in are so dedicated to learning and they work so hard, it’s rewarding to see when they make progress.
I think that working here has made me more compassionate and empathetic towards the refugees and immigrants and the daily struggles they face. I see how challenging it can be to find education and employment when you have little English knowledge. I’ve also had the opportunity to become more aware of the cultures they practice. It’s been really rewarding for me.
I would tell people who are not familiar with RISE or the refugee community to do their own research and become familiar with it because a lot of people are just unaware and once you start to read a little bit about it and learn more. I feel like people will become inspired to get involved. The volunteers here are all so helpful, and passionate I would say and it’s really wonderful to see the volunteers from the community and the refugees and immigrants coming together and working together.
“Relationships are the key for why we are here”
Director of Programs: Todd Goehle
My names Todd Goehle I’ve recently been hired as the director of programs. I work with the staff and oversee our bridging program, our education programs, ESL programs and citizenship programs.
For me, RISE provides opportunities for refugees, immigrants and others to become empowered, and for me RISE is also a vehicle for allowing us who work here as well as the larger community to join together with clients, to join together with the people we provide services for, and to build a stronger community based around compassion, empathy, dialog and humanity.
Yesterday I observed one of our ESL courses and what I found absolutely amazing and confirmed that I made the right decision to come here, is that the instructor yesterday, his name is Paul, he is a retiree who volunteers his time here. He’s speaking English to students, adults who have little to no English and the ability for them to still communicate and engage in a dialog not even with words but through laughter and through gestures, that was something that I found very attractive and for me that’s one of the things that I’ve seen the most from engaging and working with the refugees so far. Language is only one way of forming bonds and helping one another.
So I would argue right now my goals for this group is to continue to build upon the successes that we have had. In terms of our program, in terms of forming strong bonds with the community, whether it be clients, whether it be students, whether it be the university, and to further expand our programs to, for example programs that include more forms of technology, that can help us train clients to not only be competitive in the job market, but also to be independent, empowered, not just employees but also citizens.
Particularly in our current environment we as citizens and humans in general need to come together and help one another. These should be general attitudes that we have here respective of what is currently occurring, and I argue, why should someone volunteer, why should someone donate? Because when you donate or you volunteer you actually see the impact that you are having on lives and I really believe that relationships is the key for why we are here. So donate and volunteer, you’re helping people and you’re also going to find it a really rewarding experience.
“I just love to work this way.”
“My name is Kul Regmi. I came to the United States in 2010. Everyone wants to come to the United States, but the way is not easy. It’s not easy. I didn’t come very easily. I wish I could come long back. I tried, let me tell you. I tried
to come here in 1990 when I was a student. And I tried going to Canada. Even I thought of going to Australia. Coming to the United States is a boon to me at the end. I was longing to come and I came in the form of a refugee.
Obviously when I came to this country I had to struggle a lot, initially. Number one because of the language barrier. Though I speak a little bit of English, still the accent is not as good as it should
Serves as the official language of the somali people. As of 2006, there were approximately 16.6 million speakers of Somali, of which about 8.3 million reside in Somalia.
Another prominent official language in Somalia. Many Somalis speak it due to centuries-old ties with the Arab World, the far-reaching influence of the Arabic media, and religious education; particularly the Yemeni dialect.
So, still I am struggling. That’s the one part, but, I manage to speak now.
My job title is a bridging case manager here. Basically, I help the clients, refugee clients. [I prescreen clients seeking jobs based on their skill, experience, education and interest, assist them in developing resumes and help them apply to online jobs. I make phone calls to set up appointments as well as conduct mock interviews. I provide feedback to clients from the mock interviews and help correct issues so that they can present themselves more confidently.] So when I’m able to help them a little bit and bring smiles on their face, I become more happy than them. That makes me why I am happy to be a part of this organization. I just love to work this way.
I have started to have my own vision. I have started to plan how I can lead my life. What I can contribute as a human being, not only to my community but at large to the American people.”