BUFFALO,N.Y. (WIVB) – The United Nations has declared that Monday, June 20, 2016 as World Refugee Day. It’s a day when many people around the world will take the time to recognize the resilience of refugees.
Each day thousands are forced to leave their homes because of wars or other persecution.
Ahmad Rashid, his parents, and 5 siblings had to leave Afghanistan because of all of the violence. “School wasn’t safe. Daily life wasn’t safe.”
Rashid and his family packed what they could and left everything behind. “It wasn’t easy,” he said. “It was hard.”
The day his moved to Buffalo will forever be etched in his mind.
Even though the transition was tough, the 19-year-old is happy to call Buffalo home. “I love the people. I love the community. The people are awesome. They’re nice,” Rashid said.
While going to school, Rashid works at Lloyd Taco Factory in Buffalo. He is one of roughly 20 refugees who work there. The co-owner explained how important it was for his business partner and him to do so.
“It kind of hit close to home for my business partner, Pete. His dad was a refugee at one point, coming from Italy. We said what the heck. We’ll give it a shot. And we’ve had nothing but success,” Chris Dorsaneo said.
Dorsaneo’s restaurant is one of many businesses that work with the International Institute of Buffalo and Journey’s End to find jobs for refugees.
This year alone, Journey’s End will resettle 500 refugees in Western New York. Their goal is to help them live independent, self-sufficient lives.
“(We want) them to be contributing members to Buffalo and Western New York,” Karen Andolina Scott, the Executive Director at Journey’s End said.
Volunteer organizations, such as Church World Services and Episcopal Migration Ministries inform Journey’s End when there’s a family facing persecution that needs to be resettled. They set up the airfare and refugees are required to pay it back.
Once they arrive at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Journey’s End employees greet them.
“We greet them right at the door and we bring them downstairs to collect everything. Then we bring them to their first apartment,” Scott said.
Scott added that federal funding helps the refugees with housing bills for the first month or two. During that time, workers help them get jobs and enroll in school to become self-sufficient.
“Refugees, they’re just like us deep inside. They want to be safe. They want to work. They want to have a good education. They want to be happy…to have family. We’re more the same than we are different,” she said.
Refugees go through trauma dealing with the persecution in their country, leaving everything they know, then resettling in a new place.
Scott says their resilience is remarkable.
For example, Rashid’s goal is to become a surgeon one day and give back those who helped him. “If I had the power, I would help them. Shoulder by shoulder. Side by side.”
The federal government decides how many refugees can be resettled in the United States each year.
Last year, more than 4 thousand resettled in New York. Most came from Somalia, Iraq, Burma and Bhutan.
Since being here, refugees have helped Buffalo grow by starting their own businesses and working in a variety of sectors.
There are a number of things taking place on Monday for World Refugee Day. Journey’s End is having a celebration at Central Park United Methodist Church. They will be able to get clothes and household goods. There will also be giveaways and activities for the kids, such as face painting from 9:30 a.m. to 1p.m.
Journey’s End will also hold an event at Resurgence Brewing Company in Buffalo from 5-8p.m. It’s an event to raise awareness about refugees. It costs $20 to attend.