I remember being so hungry because we didn’t have enough food.

“After I left my home in the Congo, I lived in the Kyangwali refugee camp in Uganda for seven years. I remember being so hungry because we didn’t have enough food. Almost every day, I would go to the forest to farm maize and beans, and then I would go to the market and sell them. It was a stressful life. Now I am here, but I don’t know where my brother and sister are. I miss the so much. Refugees experience a lot of suffering, but if they are strong, their future can be better.”

From: Congo
Current Location: Utah
Occupation: Currently a student
Greatest need: Get a job, any job
Family: wife, 3 kids
Age: 25

Husband murdered; beat up while pregnant

When I didn’t accept his offer, and he realized that I knew he was responsible for my husband’s death, he decided to hunt me down.

“My husband was a General and a talented musician. He was killed by a government leader, another General and his boss, after his friends became jealous of him. I knew who had killed him because I was on the phone with him right before he was killed, and he told me who was with him. The killer assumed I would press charges, so he pretended to be my friend. That following Tuesday, my husband’s boss invited me over to visit. He told me he was really sorry for what happened to my husband and expressed interest in helping me. He said he wanted to give me my husband’s position; I would be the second in command after him. I told him that I didn’t know how to use a gun so I didn’t understand how I could be second in command under him in the military. He offered to train me. I told him I would think about it. I didn’t know what was in his mind, but I didn’t like it. When I didn’t accept his offer, he realized that I knew he was responsible for my husband death and decided to hunt me down. 

I went to Brazzaville to visit with a friend of my husband's who knew a lawyer that could help me. I told the lawyer everything that happened. The lawyer said I was lucky to find my husband’s body because my husband's boss typically buried bodies in his house after he killed people. I was so disgusted. The lawyer told me not to worry and that he was going to help me. What I didn't realize though is that he was working for the same General in Congo that offered me the position and was responsible for the death of my husband. When I left his place, he called his boss and told him everything I had said. Shortly after this meting, people started following me. 

We held a funeral in our home for one week after my husband’s death. Because my husband was a well respected man, many people came to our home to pay respects. One day, six military men came to visit my family. I was inside with family members and friends at the time, and they were outside drinking beer they had brought. Soon, one boy came to tell me that people were fighting outside. The men knew they could not hurt me inside where a lot of people would see. When I went outside, I asked them why they were fighting when they had come to pay respects to their brother and friend.”

Everyone who stood up to help me was killed.

“The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital. I asked what had happened. The men that were at the funeral had beat me up and hit my face with the back of their guns. They were sure I had died because I was pregnant and was not very strong at the time. I was taken to the hospital to receive treatment. I didn’t feel any pain because my whole body was paralyzed. My face was numb and swollen and everything on my face dropped to one side. At that time, I was seven months pregnant, so the doctors could not give me anesthesia or effectively treat me. While waiting to give birth, my condition continued to get worse. I could not write, I could not talk, I could not eat. My children had to feed and shower me. 

The baby came early. The day after I gave birth to my daughter, I went to the hospital because I was dying. My eyesight was blurred and I saw multiples of everything. When I arrived at the hospital, they took me into surgery right away. I did not receive anesthesia because my body was already numb. The infection that they removed from my face was red, black, and yellow. Everyone in the hospital thought it smelled like a dead body. The doctors could not believe that I survived with the infection in my head. I had to spend one week in the room by myself and the only contact I had with another human was with the nurses that came in with masks on to drain liquid and changed the bandages on my face. I was given an injection and antibiotic every day. Finally, my children and family could see me.

While I was in the hospital, the men who beat me up came to my house and took everything. There was a journalist who wrote a newspaper about my story. He and his family were killed. Everyone who stood up to help me was killed.The Red Cross helped me with medication, massages, and taught me to work again.

I decided to move from Brazzaville to Bangil in Central Africa. I did not know anybody or where I was going. God helped me a lot. I was in Cameroon for four months. My story was all over the TV and newspapers. At that time, I could not write my story because I was crying all the time. I could not say anything, I just cried 24 hours a day. I did not know what to do so I decided to fast for three days and ask Heavenly Father to give me peace and to help me stop crying. Then after my fasting I started to change and started getting better. Now is a good time for me to write my story and I hope it will help other people with similar challenges. I did not know that one day I would be a widow and that I would leave my country and find a place where life was good..”

I spoke only two words in English, ‘No’ and ‘Yes.

“In 2005, I got on a plane to leave Africa with my nine children. I cried and wondered where I was going. On the flight from France to New York, everyone was asking me in English why I was crying. I could not understand them which made me cry more. When we landed in Salt Lake City, they took us directly to Ogden. I only spoke two words in English, ‘No’ and ‘Yes.’ My initial response to everything was ‘Yes.’ When I said ‘Yes’ too much I changed my ‘Yes’ to ‘No.’ One day someone called me on phone and at the end of our conversation I said ‘Yes.’ Newspapers started being delivered to my house and eventually a big bill came in the mail. I called my friend, Anne, and she came and helped me with the bill. Anne called the newspaper company, and they told her that I said 'Yes', and that I wanted to subscribe. My friend told me not to say ‘Yes’ to anything. So, from that day on it was ‘No.’ 

When I first moved to America there were a lot of foods that were different and hard for me to eat, such as pizza. Now I enjoy pizza and I can speak English, even though it is still not perfect. My kids speak without an accent and never speak French. When I speak, they always laugh at and correct me. Because I can speak English now, I am free and I am happy to be here. When I try cooking African food, my children say, ‘We are not African, just cook food from here.’

Out of my nine children, I have five that are married and I have five grandkids. My four oldest children have college diplomas in law, health administration, and business. My fifth child is studying mechanical engineering and was married in an LDS temple last year. I put myself through school three years ago and received a degree in social work at Weber State. I currently work with a refugee resettlement agency and oversee the Congolese community in Ogden.

I became a widow at age 36 and have never remarried because I can not bear the thought of losing a man again. I am currently writing a book about my story and have already written 70 pages. There are so many details and I could take three days to tell it all. My future dreams are to be happy, watch my kids grow up and get married, keep working hard, buy a house and car, travel, and continue to go to church”

From: Congo
Current Location: Utah
Family: 9 children
Age: 50

Cambodian Mother

Over three million people were killed

The Cambodian war lasted from 1967 to1975 when Khmer Rouge, followers of the Communist Party in Cambodia, began fighting with North Vietnam. The government leaders took people from their homes to the countryside, forced them to do hard labor, and even killed many. Khmer Rouge was not the only one causing grief; the Vietnamese killed and harmed a lot of their own people. Many say that Cambodians killed Cambodians, but that is not so: the Vietnamese killed Cambodians. In 1979, the Communist Vietnamese took over.

Many Vietnamese were coming into Cambodia and took over a lot of places and even tried to change the border and say it was Vietnamese land. Prime Minister Ho Chi Min let the Vietnamese people in. He signed an agreement with them and they became friends because the Prime Minister wanted to hold his office. Every five years they have an election, but the election was not real. The people did not vote for him; he would steal the ballets. He stayed in his job for 38 years, and it was terrible. The Vietnamese came into our country stealing jobs, forcing out two million Cambodians to find work in other countries such as Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Over three million people were killed, and the phrase “killing field” was born. The leaders didn’t understand all the things they had done. They supported the Prime Minister as he followed what the Vietnamese told him to do. He didn’t care about his own people. The Prime Minister was given a house to live in and food to eat.

The Cambodian leaders did all kinds of bad things to our people. There are laws but the leaders did not obey the law. If someone spoke against the government, they would be jailed, killed, or missing. Many people were taken to the mountain, and they tried to escape because they had no food or water. It was very terrible.

My husband went missing before the Vietnamese came in 1979. The last time I saw him was in November of 1978 when the leaders were taking men to cut the trees in another province. I went to help the people harvest rice. After one o'clock I was going to our home to eat and asked my husband if he wanted to join me. He did not want to go because he was afraid of his leader. The Cambodian leader took a group of young men from one area to another to work cutting trees. They took only single people. My husband was young so they took him assuming he was single. He was scared so he didn’t say anything to stop them. He fell while working and was taken to the hospital. The one lady whose husband was with mine said that our husbands were all gone because the bus came and took them away. But later, I hear people in the village talking, they knew my husband and said he was in the hospital. My friend saw him asking for palm juice. He tried to get sugar from the palm tree. Our friend told him he could come every day to drink some juice. The next day he came again. After that, my friend did not see him anymore. Later, I found out that he was sick in the hospital. Maybe he died in the hospital. I went past that hospital all the time to go to the rice field, but I didn’t know that he was there.

Three months later, the Vietnamese came and took over. 

I could not go back to the family because they lived 100 miles away.

My four-year-old son was the only family member who came with me to America. My parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews are all still in Cambodia. I would like to move them to the United States, but I cannot sponsor all of them. So, they stayed in their country, and I went to the refugee camp in 1979. When the war broke out, I lived too far from my home town. I had to leave; I could not go back to the family because they lived 100 miles away, and I could not make the journey with my young son. The providence I lived in was close to Thailand, so I traveled 200-300 kilometers to the camp. My son was still young. I knew that my son and I could have food if we fled to the camp because the Red Cross was there. The first camp I lived at was on the border of Cambodia, and I was told they would give us rice to eat. My friend who had 12 children of his own told me that my son and I could flee with his family. He said, “You can come with us.” The family I traveled with made a handcart, and the little kids would take turns riding in the cart one or two at a time. We traveled for about two nights to our first camp.

I had to leave from one camp to the next because there was a lot of violence. I could not stay in the camp in Thailand because the fighting, bombing, killing was so dangerous. There was a better camp where pregnant and injured people and their families were sent. A lady I stayed with at the camp was pregnant and when they came to take her to the new camp she said, “This group of people is my family. If you take me, you have to take all these people.” I was in the group. A big bus came. We had stayed together at the first camp. I am not sure what happened to her. When we arrived at the new camp, they put me on a different block because I didn’t have a husband. They made a chateau for my son and me. If you had a husband, the husband can take care you. I had a different situation.

In the refugee camp, we couldn’t do anything. We were just waiting to come to a new country. I knew the language so I wrote my application and wrote some for my friends. Then you have an interview with the people from the United States. At the camp, I studied American culture, and I learned how they live here and the rules of the country. After three month in the second camp, I was able to come to the United States.

They take good care of you in the camp. You don’t want to get out of the camp. Outside the camp, it is not safe. They give you food. They had jobs in the camp, but I did not work. They have daycare, teachers, sewing classes. Some people try to go get a job as a teacher but the camp workers charged us $5-10 to find a job. I didn’t want to pay the money to get a job as a teacher.


Thousands of people came to celebrate my arrival.
Saem 1.jpg

I was relocated to New York City the first time. I was brought over by an agency that provided a sponsor and mine lived in New York. I stayed in New York for seven to eight months. There are a lot of Cambodians in Lowell, Massachusetts and I knew one person in Lowell, so I moved there next.

When I came to Lowell, l I found a job working for a company that made products out of plastic. I started at $3.25 per hour. I worked one or two years, and then I change jobs multiple times. I retired five years ago.

I remarried 10 years after living in Lowell. My husband, formerly divorced, worked with a bunch of Cambodian people, and we had a mutual friend who introduced us. Before I got married I sent money to my family in Cambodia. After we got married we went back to visit. It had been 20 years since I had left my family. Where my family lived during the war was not great but so-so. Some people were killed, sick, and did not have a lot of food. I lost one brother during that time. My younger brother was a soldier in Khmer Rouge. They gave him a job, and he was fighting. At the time, the American people supported South Vietnam in their fight against North Vietnam. My younger brother died. My father had five kids. He was not a rich man but he sent all the kids to school; my sister is the only one not educated. She worked to provide for the family, so we could go to school. When I came to America, I would send money back to my family, and they knew I was still alive. I went to visit them every two to three years after I was married.

When I went back to visit Cambodia, thousands of people came to celebrate my arrival. Many people in my town didn’t think I was alive. They thought maybe I died.

I made a tomb for the ash of my father who died before I went to see the family. My mother also passed 10 years ago.

Refugee Camp: Kaoidang Camp & Kamput Camp
Current Location: Utah
Family: Husband, son, daughter-in-law, grandkids
Age: 33 when she came to America (now in her 80’s)

Young people taken by the government

Young people like us are taken by the government.

I’m 27 years old. In my country, young people like us are taken by the government. If you say you don’t want to go, you are taken to jail, or sometimes, killed. I had to leave. I moved from Sudan to Libya to Egypt and finally the United States to find a better life. 

From: Sudan
Journey: Sudan; Libya; Egypt; United States
Current Location: Utah
Age: 27

Iraq military interpreter

My kids did not know what I did for work. I only warned them not to talk to anybody.

“I worked seven years from 2004-2011 as interpreter for the American military in Iraq. Spies working of the terrorist collected information about each of the interpreters helping America. There is a kind of military in my country called correction. They take care of the big jail where all the bad people go. Once the terrorists get out of the jail they want revenge. In 2010, one man stopped the car of my co-worker who was also an interpreter and shot him. I thought next time it might be me, they might kidnap my family or take my son.My life was in great danger and I was afraid for the safety of my family. My kids did not know what I did for work. I only warned them not to talk to anybody; I told them if a strangers tells you, “I will take you to your daddy, he is injured and he wants you to come to help him,” not to go with them.

All twenty of my friends that were working as interrupters have all lived in America since 2008-2009. I was the only one in Iraq. I was told when I took the job, that when it was complete we could go to America any time. They gave me the appreciation and verification letters.

I have been in America for three months. For me it is not hard because I have lived in Dubai before, but for my family it is extremely hard. It is very difficult when you leave your family, your aunts, uncles, my mom and all my friends. My children miss all their friends.

My goal is to get my green card and then apply for the US military. I have read that they don’t accept you unless you have a green card. If they accept me, I will go back to Iraq as an interpreter. I want my family to get a good education and have a good life here. I want to take care of everybody in my family. This is a great county. I am very happy I am here. It is like I am dreaming, you know. I want to bring my extended family here but is not easy.”

From: Iraq
Current Location: United States
Family: wife & three children
Age: 56 years old

15 years in camp

Many people didn’t even have shoes to wear.

I am 30 years old, and I have had a very challenging life. I was born in Somalia, but we had to leave when I was a child because my people were fighting each other. I was raised by my dad and my auntie in a refugee camp in Kenya. I lived there for 15 years. Many people didn’t even have shoes to wear. Some mornings, I would wake up and see dead bodies in front of my house. It was as sad time. Now that I’m here, I often pray and say, ‘God bless America and God bless back home.’

From: Somalia
Refugee Camp: Kenya
Current Location: Utah

Threatened with a bullet

Inside, I found a bullet and a note that said, ‘We know who you are. You will live the nightmare.’
Ali Avid 1.JPG

After struggling to find a job in Iraq,I was hired to be an interpreter for the United States government for six months. I was not able to renew my contract and ended up working in a business office.

I don’t know how, but someone got my information. They knew I worked for the United States government. One day, they left an envelope on my desk at my new job. Inside, I found a bullet and a note that said, “We know who you are. You will live the nightmare.” They gave me proof that they knew who I was by including a picture of me in the envelope. I didn’t know who left it or how powerful he was. I had no other option but to run for my life. I couldn’t tell anyone what was going on. I moved my family to another city for protection and fled to Turkey. Thank God, my family is still safe and I survived.

I lived in Turkey as a refugee for two and a half years. I had many struggles. I wasn’t allowed to work legally. I had to find a job illegally to pay for my basic needs. I was only paid 50% of the wages and sometimes not paid at all. I remember working 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week. I didn’t speak the language. I was hit by a car and had some medical bills. I have dark skin so people assumed I was there to steal their jobs. Finally, I went to UNHCR to present my case and story. Two years later, in 2012, I came to the United States as a refugee.


I feel like the ghost of the terror I ran away from in Iraq is still chasing me.
Ali Avid 3.JPG

My first feeling when I arrived in the United States was relief. I felt that whatever happened here could never be worse than what I faced in Iraq or Turkey. I started learning many things about American life, work and culture. I learned that there are some traditions from my past may not be suitable to my new life here. I had to be patient because there were many difficulties adjusting to my new life. I didn’t have a car or know how to go about finding a job. I received a lot of support from my caseworker and the resettlement agency.

Now, I work as a job developer; I help refugees find jobs. I feel for my clients because I have been where they are. I always tell them to be patient with themselves and to be open to learn. Within the next five years, I want to be my own boss. I’d also like to have a family. I speak English, and of course, it needs some work, but I can use the education that I got in my country to accomplish my goals here.

My family is still in Iraq. Thank God we live in an era of technology so I can still communicate with them. I want to go back and visit, but honestly, I am still hesitant. I feel like the ghost of the terror I ran away from in Iraq is still chasing me. But I do feel that I am safer here.

I am proud that I am still a human being. Whatever happened to me in the past does not change that; it didn’t make me a bad person. I am grateful for everyday of my life. When I make friends or learn something new, I feel proud that I am becoming a better version of myself. 

From: Iraq
Current Location: Utah
Family: parents, 7 siblings & some half siblings
Age: 33 years old

Grateful her kids can go to school

My dream is that my children will receive a good education.
pregnant pic.JPG

“It has been 17 years since I fled my home in Myanmar. I miss my country. There were too many problems there, so my mother, brother, and I fled and made it to a refugee camp in Malaysia. When I had children, they weren’t allowed to go to school; only the Malaysian children could go to school. The best thing about being in America is that my children now go to school. My dream is that my children will receive a good education. I have four children and one more coming next month.”


From: Myanmar
Refugee Camp: Malaysia
Current Location: United States
Family: husband & children

Syrian Mother & Translator

People we knew began disappearing.
Suhad Khudhair 1.JPG

“In 2006, I was working as a translator and interpreter for the United States government in Iraq. The other employees and I began receiving anonymous, threatening emails telling us that we needed to stop working for the US government. As we traveled to and from work, we always traveled different roads, because we knew people were following and hunting us down.

People we knew began disappearing. We did not know if they were threatening us because of money, religion, or another reason. Things got so bad that our director told us not to come to work for a while because he did not want to lose anyone. Anytime it became too dangerous, I worked from home. I faced death threats, bombings, and attempted kidnappings many times. My parents were always worried that I would not make it home safely.

I could not stay in Iraq. I was afraid for both myself and my children, so I applied for a visa to leave Iraq. My dad was in Egypt at that time, and he told me that I needed to leave. My boss supported my decision, so I fled to Egypt.” 


I did not want to go back though. There is no future there.

“I started working with the International Office of Migration and in 2009, and I came to the United States through the International Rescue Committee.

After arriving, it was all I could do to try to make enough money to take care of my family. I took jobs putting fliers up at a university, taught Arabic, worked on farms, and shoveled snow at my apartment complex to help reduce the rent. As soon as my children would arrive home from school they would go with me to the fields to help earn money to pay for cell phone bills, housing and groceries.

I volunteered at Catholic Community Services (CCS). Eventually, I got my first full time job as an interpreter at CCS. After working as an interpreter for CCS, I was promoted to be a case manager assistant, and now I am the housing coordinator.

When we first arrived, my children said to me, “Mom, let us go back.” I did not want to go back though. There was and is no future there. It has not been easy to be here, but our destiny is here. It took a while to adjust, but my children now love it in America. They do not want to go back anymore.

One year ago, after living in America for six years, I received citizenship. My family and I are proud that we have reached this point. We bought our first home. We have work hard and we still have dreams. My son and I would like to open a small café, a mix of Middle Eastern and international cuisine. I will continue working hard so that I can help my children fulfill their dreams.”



From: Iraq
Current Location: United States
Family: children
Age: 51 years old

Broken dreams

All my dreams are broken.

"My family is from Somalia, but I was born in a refugee camp in Yemen. I had no home, food, or money, and I lived in a tent. In the camp, I was surrounded by fighting and problems. Three years ago, I was resettled to Utah. Life in America is good, but all my dreams are broken."

From: Somaila
Current Location: Utah
Family: son
Age: 22

I am the luckiest man on earth

“During WWII, My mother lived in our home in Rothenow, while my dad was serving in the German army in Russia. It wasn't a strategic place, but in 1944, the bombs started falling on our little city too. I was ten-days-old when she left the city to go live with my grandparents on the farm, where the bombs wouldn’t fall. On her thirteen-hour train ride, the bombers would come and strafe the train and they’d have to stop the train and hide in the forest. If the train wasn't damaged, they'd get back on and keep going. At one point, life became so difficult for her that she was going to drown the children and take her own life. She just didn't think she could live another day and manage. And my grandmother saved our lives by talking her out of it. Grandmother said, ‘God has protected us up to now and he will continue to protect us.'"


Once we were all together, my mother said, ‘Children, we’re never going home again

I was born and raised in East Germany in a little town called Rothenow. Following the end of WWII, life was difficult for us. My father would scavenge and somehow find food for us to live on from day to day. Once, he found 100 pounds of wheat and 100 pounds of dried soups under a staircase in an abandoned Russian barracks. Our family lived on that food for six months. My mother would have us children go to bed really early. I never understood. Later I found out that we each only had one set of clothing that my mother would wash every night to keep us looking clean.

We lived under communism in Eastern Germany. We couldn't vote. We couldn't say anything against the government. We didn’t even hear the real news. The idea of religion at the time was also restricted. My family belonged to the LDS faith. My dad was the local leader there and our meetings were monitored. He was put on the black list because of the relationship of the church to the United States. Our home was searched without a warrant. My father felt like we were suffocating under those kind of conditions. He wanted something better for his family.

When I was eight years old, my family decided to escape out of East Germany to the west. Before you could enter into the free sector of Berlin, the East German police and Russians would stop all trains and search everything. Children were separated from parents and interrogated because children would tell the truth. So my parents didn’t tell us where we were going. 

The Saturday before we left, my mother went outside and washed our front steps and my dad planted 100 strawberry plants in the yard, just like any regular Saturday. On Monday morning they left everything behind. All we could take were the belongings in one suitcase that made it look like we were going for a visit.

My dad had seen others escape and some who were caught in the process. He devised a plan for my family to cross the border in two separate places. Some time before, several of the children moved to live with my grandmother's sister near East Berlin. My mother and my dad and my oldest brother stayed in our hometown of Rothenow. At the time, you could receive permission to visit family members in West Berlin, but you could never take the entire family across the border. Part of the family was always held as a hostage so the rest of the family would return. Because we were living in separate locations, both parties received permission to visit my uncle who lived in the American sector in Berlin. In this day and age of computers, we would have been caught. 

We crossed the border about the same time in two different locations and then we met at the bahnhof [train station]. Once we were all together, my mother said, ‘Children, we're never going home again.’”


I remember living in a hall with 200 other people

"During our very first night in West Germany, we slept on the hard floor of a hallway somewhere. The next day we were able to make contact with the refugee system and my father declared himself a political refugee seeker. We stayed in a refugee camp where they processed new refugees that had arrived. It was an old war factory that had been abandoned in Berlin that had been filled with hundreds and hundreds of double bunk beds. I remember living in a hall with 200 other people. 

After six weeks, we were assigned to another refugee camp in the northern German city, Brahmand. The camp we lived in there was an abandoned Germany Army barracks that they had turned into a refugee camp. There were seven huge buildings. There was a men's hall for single men and a women's hall for single women. Our family was lucky enough to get one room for our family. The seven of us (my mom, my dad, the four children, and my grandmother) lived in this one room for two years. 

Because of the isolation of the camp there wasn't a school we could attend. So the refugee camp set up their own school. I specifically remember reading Dick and Jane books because most of the refugees there were trying to go to the United States. So I learned ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ and ‘Dick’ and ‘Jane’ and ‘See the dog run’ and that was my extent of English.

At the beginning, my dad was not allowed to work. None of the refugees were. But after awhile, he received permission to do labor on the docks of a nearby shipping town. It wasn't full time but he was able to earn a little more money for the the family than he would have been able to otherwise. 

The West German government was phenomenal in supporting refugees. We were given a stipend--each person received 50 cents a day from the German government. At the camp there was a big auditorium, a kitchen, and a big lunch room where they would prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for the families of the refugees. 

We always knew living in the camp was a temporary situation. Although we were very, very grateful to be in a place where we had security, safety, and roof over our head and food, it wasn't a comfortable place. There were refugees coming in and out so there was a lot of turnover. It was hard to make friends because they'd be gone the next day. We lived there for about two years until my parents got permission to immigrate to the United States. That was the dream come true. 

When they announced our date of departure, we were overjoyed. But right before we left, my older brother Dee got really, really got sick. He had a liver problem that precluded him from travel. Now the decision had to be made, do we skip our date and not go or do we go and leave him behind? We decided to go. Can you imagine a mom leaving one of her children behind? But the idea of not having that opportunity come again or possibly having to wait way longer weighed so heavily on them that they decided to leave him behind."


She told us that it was the symbol of freedom. Now, we were in a free country.

“We took a ship to cross the ocean. We left from Holland, went to France, Canada, then New York. I remember my mother waking us up one early early morning. My sister and I didn’t know what was going on. Mother said,’You've got to get dressed and come upstairs!’ It was still dark outside and I wondered what was going on. We all got dressed and went upstairs and just at that time the boat was slowly moving into the New York Harbor. She pointed to the Statue of Liberty. As a child, I didn't understand, I did not know the meaning of it, so my mother explained. She had learned about it and knew what it stood for. She told us that it was the symbol of freedom. Now, we were in a free country. 

A few years ago, my wife and I were able to take all of our kids back to the New York harbor to see the Statue of Liberty. We explained how precious a symbol that is, how precious this country is and that we should never take the freedoms that we have here for granted. Because someone fought for them; someone earned it for us that we could partake of it, but for us it was just given. Someone else gave their life for it. Our whole family loves this country and what it stands for. We have problems like any other country but we have so many privileges that billions of people in the world do not have--the richness of life, the goodness of life, especially the freedoms that we have. "


I was totally afraid and totally lost

“As a ten year old arriving in the United States, I was blown away by the size of the country. We crossed on a trailway bus from New York to Salt Lake City. I knew Germany was big, but it was not that big. I had never seen so many cars in my whole life! Once we arrived in Salt Lake City, our friend picked us up at the railway station and took us to his home in his car. He drove an old Nash Rambler, but to me it was like the most beautiful thing. I never got to ride in a car in Germany. 

My mother's sister had received permission to immigrate to the United States about six months prior to us getting our permission. They immediately invited us to come stay at their home. There were six of us and it was a small home. I'm sure we were a big impact. But I remember I just the delicious food that they had that I so cherished. 

My mom and dad immediately enrolled in evening English courses. That was the first thing they knew they had to do, to crack that barrier of language to communicate to assimilate. Half a year later, they both attended classes to learn about the United States, the government and how this land functions. If they passed the exam they were eligible to become citizens. My dad and my mom took the course and were sworn in to be citizens of the United States. That was a special, special day. 

My dad immediately found work even though he didn't speak the language. He was a laborer so he could communicate a lot with hand signals. As soon as he had an income, we found a home that we could rent, which wasn't that far away from where my aunt and uncle lived. 

When we got moved into our place, my parents said it was time for me to attend school. I was put in a fourth grade class in the middle of the school year. I had no friends. I didn't know a soul. I didn't speak the language. I was totally afraid and totally lost. 

My teacher recognized that it was hard to have a little boy without language skills come into a class. There was another German girl in the class who was also a refugee. The teacher would allow us to go out into the hall so she could teach me English for an hour or two a day. Once, my teacher gave the class time to write a story. I was still struggling, but I remember writing a very simple story. The teacher was so impressed with my little writing that he read it in front of the class. I was a little embarrassed but at the same time I felt proud that he would read mine. 

The second world war had only ended nine years before, and when kids saw me and knew I was German, they were hard on me. I was called a “Nazi” and a “German pig.” It bothered me. That stigma stayed with me for quite some time. I felt like I didn't ever measure up and that I was inferior. That was hard to overcome.”


There’s no entitlement to the richness of life. You build it yourself.

“I feel like I am the luckiest man on earth. I have so surpassed all my expectations that I had as a young man. I was able to achieve things that I never even dreamed possible. Through my education, I was able to have wonderful work opportunities to support the family and to own a home that is so much moregrandiose than I ever expected. To be a close family was one of our greatest goals and we've achieved that; I feel like that's the biggest blessing. 

I feel like I'm the richest man in the world, not in riches of the world, but in richness of life. The one thing I try to teach my kids is to have gratitude because if you take things for granted then some entitlement comes. There is no entitlement to the richness of life. You build it yourself.

Relationships are the most precious of all of that. Because you don't have to be economically well to do to have a rich life. You can still live a wonderful, wonderful life. I just love living life. I wish more people could feel the way I feel. Maybe that's one thing I would wish for the future is that people recognize how to count the blessings more than to count the negatives. My glass is always half full. It's never half empty. I think I got that attitude because of what we have gone through coming from nothing physically or economically and now having everything. We have cars in multiplicity, food in our refrigerator and warm, clean water. There are so many people in the world that never have warm, clean water. We just go into a shower and turn the knob and this warm, clean, beautiful water bathes us. And there are people in the world that never ever experience that. But for us it's just a common, everyday. We have so many things that we take for granted. I still get on my knees at night and thank my Heavenly Father for a soft bed and clean sheets, because for other people that would be like living like a king. And we live that way every day. 

Because our family had this amazing experience as refugees, we try to help refugees have a good experience in this country. There's so much to be done. I always say "Do whatever you can, but do something." If you don't do anything, I'm not sure that's gratitude."

From: Rothenow, East Germany
Current Location: Utah
Family: wife, 6 children, 10 grandchildren
Age: 73

No room for hate

I don’t have room in my heart to hate anyone.

“I am a simple girl who has seen many things in life. My life has been very difficult, but even with all of that, I stay strong because I know that nothing is impossible. Sometimes in life, we fall down, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop. If we don’t fail, we will never succeed.

My most important dream is that my family and I go to Germany. My brother lives there and I want all of us to live a happy life together. My other dream is to finish my studies. Afterwards, I would like to earn a lot of money for people who need it and children who can’t go to school because they don’t have money. I feel happy when I see children and people who are happy. I also want to donate to charity.

I don’t hate anyone. I can’t hate anyone because my heart is full of love. I don’t have room in my heart to hate anyone. Why don’t we love each other instead of hating each other? Why don’t we give the world love instead of hate?”

From: Iraq
Current Location: Greece
Age: 19
Family: Parents, 2 brothers, 3 sisters
Occupation: Student

Escaping somalia

There were bombings nearby every single day and people were dying.


“I was born in Somalia and lived in a town called Bidoah, which is south of Mogadishu, the capital. After high school and two years of national service, I moved to the capital to attend university. My mom had a family business, so I worked there until I finished college.

In 1990, The Civil War broke out between the militia and the government. The civilians were caught in the middle. There were daily bombings and I saw people die in the streets nearly every day. There was no water or electricity. There was a shortage of food; we had to eat what we had on hand at the time. After hiding in the city for two years, we fled. Just after we left, the government was overthrown and we thought the war had ended. We came back to the city thinking we would have a new government that would restore peace and order. However, a few days after we came back, the Civil War broke out again. The militia groups were fighting and the government groups were trying to come back. We left again.

We moved into a relative’s large home on the outskirt of the city. There were hundreds of other people living there, and it was kind of like a small refugee camp. Each day, one person would cook for the entire family using big pots of boiling water. One day, I went to the city to try and get food. As I returned that night, I learned that while I was gone, my two-year-old son had received severe burns throughout his entire body. He had been running through the house playing, and when he was in the kitchen he tripped and the large pot of boiling water spilled onto and severely burned his body. There were no hospitals operating at that time and there were no doctors. We could only give him the little medication we had on hand. There was no way I could get him out of the country because all the roads were blocked. He survived for one week and then passed away.

When I buried him, my wife and I talked about what we were going to do. We had lost our son. Should we wait until we lose another family member or should we leave? We decided then that I would leave.”


“I risked my life to cross the border…”


I risked my life to cross the border between Somalia and Kenya. I couldn’t take my belongings or extra clothing because I would be looted or killed so I took only some small pocket money. I traveled in a cattle truck to the border town.

It took me several days to cross the border because there was conflict among the local tribes. I had to be very careful when I traveled among them. I spoke different dialects otherwise I would have been in danger. Luckily, I knew the area where I was traveling well. After several days and many forms of transportation, I finally crossed the border.

I could not go to Nairobi directly because there were so many Kenyan police in the road. I did not have any documents so I paid a truck driver to get me to Nairobi. For two days, I rode in a cattle truck. I was on the top of the vehicle at times, but when I saw the police, I hid in the area with the cattle so they would not see me. In total, it took me a little over a month to get from Somalia to Nairobi.

During my journey, I did not have any communication with my family. There were no cell phones and all the telephones had all been disconnected. When I finally made it to Kenya, I used the radio military frequency to radio a message to my family to let them know that I had reached Kenya safely. Whenever my wife wanted to talk, we payed to communicate back and forth through the radio. That is how I communicated them getting the airplane from Somalia for them to come to Nairobi.

I was so happy when I was reunited with my family in Kenya. I knew they were alive but their situation day to day was changing because of the war. But when they came to Nairobi and we met there it was a happy reunion.

We went to Kenya to live in a safe place where we could raise our family. But we could not live there permanently because the government does not issue permanent residency or citizenship there. We were given temporary refugee status but we could not work or get an education. We lived in the camp without anything to do. That was not the life we wanted to live so we applied to the refugee resettlement program through the UNCHR. My identification was verified through interviews and background checks. After some time, we were then told that we would come to Utah. We knew that when we went to the United States, we would have to start a new life. 


The life of refugee, if even for one minute, is too much.

"On May 6, 1994, I landed in the Salt Lake City airport with refugee status in my hand. That was the happiest moment in my life! I felt I was safe that I wouldn’t have to worry. Coming here was a new beginning for us. 

Catholic Community Services helped us to resettle. They gave us a place to live and furniture. I got my first job when I had been here only one month so I could provide for my family, work hard, and go back to school to get the education that I needed. We moved to Logan, Utah where I went to Utah State University and to complete the intensive English Program. We lived and worked in Logan for two years. I worked making exercise machines on the manufacturing lines at Icon Fitness. My wife also learned English. It was not easy, but the main important thing was that we lived in a safe place and we had the opportunity to work and be a part of this community. We felt very welcome; people were so kind to us. were welcomed very well. 

The first day we were in the United States, we had legal status. We were given refugee status. After one year we got our green cards and after five years we applied for United States citizenship. We were so proud. I remember when I got my United States citizenship. The following election that was the first time in the history of my life that I exercised my right to vote. I never exercised that in Somalia because there was no point to vote for the military dictatorship that had been ruling the country for more than 20 years. It was really great to see that you can make a difference in your voice, that you have that right that you can exercise and no one can take it away from you. That you have the right to vote whoever you want to without someone bribing you or pointing a gun at your head and telling you to put in this ballot box or you will be arrested. That is what they use to do at home. And it was very touching. At that moment we felt that we belonged to this country and were a part of this community and a country that gives us so much. In my own country we were kicked out. We were forced to flee. I did not want to leave but we were forced to flee.

In 1996, there was a wave of Somali refugees that moved to Salt Lake and Catholic Community services offered me a job as a case manager for the Somali refugees because of I spoke Somali and I was a refugee myself. I did that for about a year and then they moved to the immigration program. I got my accreditation to practice immigration law and I maintain that to date and the immigration program here I use to do myself. I was the first person to do that work and now the immigration program is one of the biggest and best immigration program in the state. Later, I went back to school and got my MPA from the University of Utah.

Originally, I was trained to be an immigration attorney. I started working for CCS but I worked between both immigrants and refugees. This is my passion. I like to help people and I will continue to do the work that I do.

It is not as easy to be a refugee as people think. I don’t think they realize that the life of refugee, if even for one minute, it is too much. I remember counting the seconds, not even minutes. It is not easy. I knew one refugee family that was resettled. The woman had several children when she came from a refugee camp in Kenya. She said there were days when she had to decide which one of her children would go hungry. People do not realize how difficult that would be for a refugee. So I think that one thing that people that are reading this story or people of the community, I would like to let them know that refugees go through a lot. They are victims themselves because they are kicked out of their home country." 

From: Somalia
Refugee Camp: fled to Kenya
Current Location: United States
Family: wife, three sons, two daughters
Occupation: Immigration and Refugee Resettlement Director
Age: 47

4.0 Jordanian Students

When we got to the refugee camp in Jordan, we had school in a tent.
This photo was taken a few years ago in Syria.

This photo was taken a few years ago in Syria.


“In Syria, our school was fantastic. We had a nice three story building. There were 50 different teachers and our dad was the principal. When we got to the refugee camp in Jordan, we had school in a tent. Learning was very different because of the weather--we got so cold in the winter and so hot in the summer. We also experienced wind storm and sand storms. We only had two teachers in the camp.

The language has been the most difficult part of school in the United States. In Syria, all the classes are in Arabic and here they are all in English. In Syria, we studied English grammar for two hours a week, but that is different than speaking the language. In the camp we also studied some English grammar after school, which has helped in the transition. Now, we are both 4.0 students.

Of course, we miss our home, our school and our friends. But we are a part of America now. We are safe and feel a lot of trust and love here in America."

From: Syria
Refugee Camp: Elzatta Camp in Jordan
Current Location: United States
Family: Parents and three brothers
Age: 15

Living on hope

The last time they beat me up they said, “this time we are giving you the chance to live, but next time we will not.”


“I was born in the Congolese city of Kinshasa. I grew up there until I was 11 years old. When my dad received a promotion, we moved to the east of Congo and I finished high school in a city called Decoma.

I was finishing my degree in computer programming when I got a job with the Red Cross to help abused women and children. I advocated for their rights through the media. Consequently, the people who speak for right things will always be in danger in my country. Several times, as I drove home at night, after finishing work for the day, I was beaten up. I never knew when it would happen. The last time they beat me up they said, “This time we are giving you the chance to live, but next time we will not.”

After I received a series of threats, I left my hometown and ran until I got to a refugee camp in Uganda. I had left my job, my family, and it was difficult to begin a new life. I went from a good life to nothing.

When I arrived at the camp, I went to the police to tell them that I was a refugee. I didn’t have any personal documents so I was asked many questions, fingerprinted, and had to wait to be approved before I could receive any food.

When I was finally approved, I was given a ticket that allowed me to receive food, take the bus, and be assigned an apartment through the UNHCR.

Life is not easy as a refugee in Uganda. It’s like being in a prison. The water was unclean. The camp was unsafe. People were dying because they could not access medicine or healthcare. Many women were raped.

For me it was not easy. As a refugee you sleep and wake up and you live a life that you have not lived before." 

Most of the people in the refugee camp live on hope.


"One day, I went to see some of the authorities. They told me that because I had finished school and spoke English, they would give me a job. After I began working, I started feeling a little better about my life. I worked as a repair technician. I hadn’t been trained to be a technician, but I figured it out on the job. After that they gave me a job as a social worker. I then worked as an interpreter for two years.

Two months after I arrived in Uganda, my brother and sister showed up in the camp. I was so surprised. It was a total coincidence that they found me. They left home because life was too dangerous. They told me that my father and older brother had been killed. They didn’t know where our mother was. My sister told me that she had been raped right before they fled to the camp and she soon found out that she was pregnant.

After three years together in the camp, my sister received a phone call that we would be sent to America. I have to say I never wanted to come to America, but I told her that I would go for her because I wanted her to be happy.

I want to go back to the Congo to be the president or in a political position, but I need to finish my master’s degree first.

If I could give advice to people still in the refugee camp, I would tell them not to lose hope. Most of the people in the refugee camp live on hope. No matter what people do to put refugees down, you must continue to live. You can have a new life!”

From: Congo
Refugee Camp: Nakivale Camp, Uganda
Current Location: United States
Family: sister and brother
Occupation: case manager for refugees
Age: 26

Escaping the Shingal (Shinjar) Massacre

I cannot forget the children and adults who died of hunger, thirst and fatigue.


“I am 18 years old. I am from the Shingal area in Iraq. I lived a simple life there. I had school friends and I was with my family. These things made me happy. On August 3, 2014, ISIS organized an attack against Shingal. Men were killed and women and children were abducted. I was able to escape with my family and we fled to Mount Shingal. There was very little food and water. I cannot forget the children and adults who died of hunger, thirst and fatigue. After much suffering, we went to the other side of the mountain. When I was walking on the mountain I saw one woman with five young children. One child could not walk because of the pain she was in. Her mother was not able to carry her, so my parents and I carried her with us until we made it off the mountain, where we took her back to her mother’s lap. Forty-three 43 of us climbed in the back of an open jeep and upon arriving in Syria, we went straight to the northern Iraqi Kurdistan.”

From: Iraq
Current Location: Greece
Family: Parents
Age: 18

Finding My Cambodian Identity

 I often think my memories might be a dream, but then I talk to someone else and they verify that my dream was a reality.


"I was born in Cambodia, lived in a refugee camp from age three to five, and then moved to the United States when I was five years old.

I remember bits and pieces about the camp. I often think my memories might be a dream, but then I talk to someone else and they verify that my dream was a reality. I remember during that time there were American reporters and bombings. My mom remembers a lot of that and she has told me different stories.

I remember a little bit of the plane ride coming to America. We had a sponsor that lived in New York City. I remember that cold, November day stepping off the plane in San Francisco and waiting for our connecting flight to New York City. The weather in America was much colder than the weather in Cambodia's tropical climate. Someone gave me a big overcoat to keep me warm.

I remember going up the escalator and eating green grapes for the first time. Those are kind of funny memories to have.

We only lived in New York for about seven months before we moved to Lowell, Massachusetts. I lived in Lowell until I graduated from high school, and then I came to Utah to go to college."

I think when I hit 30 I had a light turn on and realized that I am American, but deep down inside I am also Cambodian and I need to learn my culture.


"Growing up I did not feel a strong tie to the Cambodian culture. In Lowell there were a lot of Asians so I had a lot of Cambodian, Loas, and Thai friends. I didn’t have the benefit of some of the cultural things, for example, I didn’t go to the Wat which is the Cambodian Temples. I participated in some Cambodian things but I was not that connected.

When you are in America, you want to do American things. So, when I was in high school I partied with my friends, went to football games, and played basketball.

I am 43 years old now. I think when I hit 30 I had a light turn on and realized that I am American, but deep down inside I am also Cambodian and I need to learn my culture. About 10 years ago I started going to an LDS Cambodian branch. I began picking up the language a little bit more. Being in Utah there are not a lot of Cambodians, I speak a little bit of Cambodian, but not a lot. Going to the branch has been great. It has given me the opportunity to see the culture and connect me to my roots. In 2007 I visited Cambodia for the first time have gone back every three or four years since. I still have relatives that live in Cambodia and it is nice to connect with family.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve made that connection that yes, I live here in America but I have a culture on the other side of the world that is my heritage and where I am from.

I feel like I’ve lived the American dream getting an education and things that I’ve wanted. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science then went on for a master’s degree. Currently, I work for the LDS Church supporting IT efforts for the Family History Department. It’s been great blessing and a rewarding job so I love it. I’ve been doing it for about 10 years.

I am an only child and my parents were living back east and getting older. My mom is 70 and my step father is 75 so when we were looking to buy a house our criteria was to have a mother-in-law set up so they could come live with us and it’s been a blessing. I have two grown kids. I’ve got a daughter that is on a mission right now and I’ve got a son that is finishing high school and getting ready to go on a mission."

From: Cambodia
Refugee Camp: Kaoidang Camp & Kamput Camp
Current Location: United States
Family: mother, step-father, wife, two children
Occupation: IT Support
Age: 40

Syrian Photographer

Every day, I was afraid that I might die.

“My name is Abdulazez. As I was growing up, I found myself in the middle of the war in Homs, Syria. My city became a place where you couldn’t find breath. Six months after the revolution, I left my house together with my parents, brother, sister, and sister-in-law. I left many friends behind. Now, half of them are dead, and the other half, I don’t know anything about.

After we left home, I lived in the countryside for three years. I went back to school, but I couldn’t do a lot of the things I loved because of the situation. My eyes were always looking outside, out of the box which we were in. I wanted to find purpose in my life and a way to do something for my people. But every day, I was afraid that I might die. I worried that no one would even remember who I was.

I left for Turkey with my family in 2014. I saw hope, but I was surprised by many things we encountered, racism maybe the worst of them all. I managed to go to school there and that made me happy. Soon, I re-discovered the internet, which I missed so much during the war in Syria. I loved it. I used Youtube to begin learning Turkish online. One of my best friends told me about Photoshop. Soon, I fell in love with it and started using it to create my art.

I had loved to making art about life, love, and hope before, but at the time I was thinking about life back in Syria and my life now. There are lot of people who would love to be here, but they don’t have the ability. I started using art to represent us as a homeless people. I found myself spending lot of time learning more about different ways to express myself. 

After one year in Turkey, my family decided to leave because we could not make enough money to live. We were staying in an area just five kilometers from Syria, and missiles were coming all the time from that side to the border village. The Turkish people were blaming us and treating us poorly. We sold everything, borrowed some money and headed toward Europe. We did this for our lives, for the opportunity to study, and to leave the war and racism.”

I asked myself if it was better to die quickly rather than die slowly.
Photo Credit: David Lohmueller

Photo Credit: David Lohmueller


“Finally, we reached Idomeni camp. After we arrived, I asked someone how long he had been there. ‘One week,’ he said. I said, ‘Oh! How you can stay here for that long?’ But then we also stayed there for a very long time. Some nights I could not sleep, thinking about where I was.

To keep my mind clear, I read books, kept my phone charged and spent time learning online. I was bored. We left Idomeni after a period of three days of rain. Our small tent could not withstand the water. We had nothing. I was left there was standing, looking, breathing and asking why I came there. I asked myself it it was better to die quickly rather than die slowly. 

We left Idomeni with broken hearts. We were afraid when we left that the border would open and we would not be there, so we went to the Eko Station camp. I found a new spot for myself, a small tent and some new people, new faces and new eyes. There, when I didn’t feel like reading or writing, I started volunteering with different teams. With time, I forgot about my art until one volunteer asked me what I was doing. First, I just said that I was studying. But after one minute of silence, I said that I was working on some art and asked her if she wanted to see. She agreed and I showed her some of my old things. She liked them so much that she put me in touch with a volunteer who found a laptop for me. I started working not only as a Syrian, but as a refugee. I started saying that I was an artist with confidence.

Another volunteer from Italy sent me a small camera. I took pictures of the reality of life, not the pictures you see in the media. Later, I got my second camera from Spain, this one more professional. I decided to create a platform for refugee voices which I called, “Through Refugee Eyes.” Three months ago I got another camera, this time from Germany. Many volunteers have given me lenses, equipment and books which have allowed me to keep going.

After a while, I left Eko camp, along with everyone else. We did not choose to leave; we were evicted. But I kept doing the same things wherever I went, and have continued until today. I love taking pictures and I want to tell to the world the truth about our life.”

One day, I will again be a normal person.


“Today, I have been in Greece for over seven months. I still remember when I believed it would be only seven days. Every day is like a month. But, as long as I am here, I will spread my messages towards Europe and the whole world. We are not terrorists. We didn’t come from nothing, we were forced to come. No one chose to leave their homes. We love to live. We didn’t come here to destroy anything. We used to have everything you have. We have a mind, body and feelings like you. I am a Muslim and proud of that. If you think that because I am Muslim I’m a terrorist, you’re wrong. In Syria, people of different religions were living together before the war. No one used to say anything about other people’s beliefs. My message to Europe is: ‘Open your mind. Try to learn the truth before judging anyone.’

I am here in Greece, in the middle of enormous human suffering. But, I have my road toward the future, God willing. I want to be an artist, a photographer, and to study. I always loved to show the world what I think and what is inside me. And that is what I am doing with my art. One day, I will again be a normal person.

Our dreams are not so big: to breathe, to study, to live and to have friends. Is that too much to ask? I’m here today because of the war. If tomorrow my country becomes safe, I will go back. I am Abdulazez, and I am a refugee."

Just five weeks ago, on April 25, 2017, Abdulazez received permission to leave Greece and live in Belgium. His life there is just beginning, as he begins to learn a new language, attend school, find a job, and rebuild. His dreams are becoming a reality!

“I can’t believe I am finally out of Greece. Over a year ago, I arrived in Greece. I wanted to cross the borders to any country where we could continue my studies and just live safely after years of not having it. But the borders were closed and I was stuck in Greece. I lived for five months in the camp and then moved to an apartment to try to get to mainland Europe the legal way. I waited for nine months before I was able to finally leave. Today, I finally arrived in Belgium! I can’t tell you how happy I am to know that I will be able to learn new languages and continue to study in a few months. I am happy that I have passed the difficulties of the last year and moved on to a new chapter. My dream was to be free to learn, free to live. That is the dream of many, many refugees.”
From: Homs, Syria
Current Location: Belgium
Family: Parents, brother, sister, sister-in-law
Occupation: Student
Age: 19

19 yrs. In Ungandan Camp

We helped this 26 year old refugee record her journey in February, and below is part of her story. She lived in a Ugandan refugee camp for 19 years and moved to the United States in 2016.


"I lived as a refugee in a camp in Uganda for 19 years. We ate only rice, potatoes, beans, and bananas. There was never enough food, but living there was better than the life we left in Congo. Now, I’m in America. My greatest fear here is that I wont be able to help my children. When my son goes to kindergarten, his teachers tell him that his parents need to help with his schoolwork at home. I don’t know how to read or write though, so that has become a big problem." 

From: Congo
Refugee Camp: Uganda
Current Location: United States
Family: Husband, three sons
Age: 26

Seeking Happiness in Greece

This 19-year-old refugee was forced to flee her home when ISIS attacked the Shingal area of Northern Iraq, with the intent to commit genocide of the Yazidi people. At the time she wrote these words in 2017, she was living as a refugee in Greece.


“I’m a crazy girl who can be annoying and stubborn. I have many dreams. I want to go anywhere, be happy, live with my family and see all my friends. I want them to be proud of me. Every morning, I want to wake up to the voice of my mom and my family.

I want people to help each other. It makes me happy when I see people laugh and smile. I love the people who don't know how to hate, those that believe nothing is impossible and everything is possible.

I want my friends to understand me, believe me and trust the things I say. I want them to comfort me when I am sad and share my joy when I am happy. Together, we will share our sorrows before our joys. My joy is not complete without my friends.

My family and my friends still ask me, 'What is your wish for your birthday?' They don't know that all I want is to see them happy. I want them to stay with me and love me forever. This is what I want for my birthday.”

From: Iraq
Current Location: Greece
Family: Parents, 4 brothers, 3 sisters
Occupation: Student
Age: 19