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Help Families Fleeing Crisis Rebuild Their Lives

by International Rescue Committee
Help Families Fleeing Crisis Rebuild Their Lives
Help Families Fleeing Crisis Rebuild Their Lives
Help Families Fleeing Crisis Rebuild Their Lives
Help Families Fleeing Crisis Rebuild Their Lives
Jan 6, 2020

Update- Help Families Fleeing Crisis Rebuild Lives

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world's worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. The IRC helps vulnerable people in 40 counties and 25 cities across the U.S. Below is a story of a refugee family and the IRC’s work to support them.

When he was 16 years old, Robert started a diary. He didn’t know if he was a good writer or not; he wasn’t able to finish high school, since he couldn’t afford the fees. Regardless, Robert felt a sense of relief as he scribbled down his experiences, thoughts and feelings.

“One might say: I am a dreamer, a young bird growing its wings,” he wrote in one of his entries. “Call me whatever you please but I am young and determined to expand my horizons. I am hopeless and lose weight when I flash back to the past, but I regain when I look forward to the future.”

That entry addressed the harsh realities of growing up in a refugee camp in Uganda, where Robert would live for more than 20 years after escaping war in Democratic Republic of Congo. He also wrote about his most cherished aspirations: to establish a real home, obtain an education, and live a purposeful life.

“I am a young boy with a lot of zeal for life, a lot of life energy for happiness and with a vision,” he wrote.

At the age of 28, Robert has fulfilled some of his dreams—he now lives in America, enjoys a steady job, bought his first house, and is saving to go back to school.

‘Come faster, come—run!’

Robert was just four years old when the massacre happened. He remembers it was a Tuesday—Tuesdays were when his parents would go to market. His neighbors kept an eye on him as he kicked around a soccer ball. At one point, Robert heard loud noises. At first, he thought the sounds were some sort of alarm to warn the community of buffalos entering the town.

“But it was war,” Robert says.

The noises were gunshots. Robert saw his neighbors running. Unaware of what was happening, he ignored the chaos and continued to play—until bullets flew in front of him.

“I saw fire. The bullets were coming so close to me. I started crying. I shouted ‘Mom!’ but my mom was not around. Then my auntie, she lived close by, started calling.

“She was like, ‘My son, come.’ And I said, ‘What's going on?’ She said, ‘Come faster, come faster, come—run.’”

Robert and his aunt couldn’t run far. She was eight months pregnant, so they hid. Armed men found them, dragging Robert and his aunt into the streets.

Robert was hit repeatedly with the barrel of the gun. One of the men put his hand over his mouth so he wouldn’t scream. The four-year-old was forced to watch as another man decapitated his aunt.

“Then, they beat me almost to death.”

Robert was left lying among dead bodies for several days, he later learned. An anonymous woman picked him up, wrapped a blanket around his small body, and carried him across the border to Uganda, where she handed him to the American Red Cross. He was rushed to the hospital and later, miraculously, was reunited with his parents in a refugee camp.

‘I never thought I could do this…’

Robert turns quiet after recounting his story. He folds his hands neatly on his lap; his eyes are wide and bright.

Despite the pain and trauma that he carries with him to this day, he feels that sharing his story helps him to remain resilient as he starts a new life in the United States.

Robert was resettled by the International Rescue Committee in Phoenix in 2016. He came to America with his wife, Esther, who is 25, and their children, Sandra, 5, and Agape, 4. The couple’s toddler, Raza, was born in Arizona.

The IRC helped Robert and Esther find jobs at a warehouse—Esther works morning shifts and Robert evening hours. With the IRC’s support, the couple saved money and built up credit. They enrolled in English classes and studied American culture and laws. And they managed to buy a house.

“It was really a dream,” Robert says, describing the day he received the keys to their home. “I never thought I could do this in America.”

Five-year-old Sandra plays with her little brother, Agape who is four, at a nearby park. “Sandra loves school,” Esther says. “She wakes up during the weekend and asks to go to school.”

‘We are human beings looking for hope’

When Robert reflects on how much his life has changed, he always comes back to the same realization: “Refugees can almost do anything if they are given the opportunity.” 

This is the message he gave to a group of college students at Arizona State University where recently he was invited to speak.

“I will never stop speaking about refugees, because they’re my family,” he says. “We share similar experiences. No matter where we are from. I told [the students that] refugees are people who are trying to take new steps in life...We are human beings looking for hope.”

Robert still regrets not finishing high school, and he wants to resume his studies with a focus on human rights. “I want to defend people,” he says, speaking with passion. Robert is determined to accomplish this goal, no matter how long it takes. When things get tough, he looks back at that diary entry he wrote at 16.

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Organization Information

International Rescue Committee

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @theIRC
Project Leader:
Caitlin Golub
New York, NY United States
$2,088 raised of $5,000 goal
 
18 donations
$2,912 to go
Donate Now
$23
USD
Emergency Care for a Child | $23 can provide a malnourished child with emergency care, including antibiotics, IV fluids and glucose, as well as supplies to keep a child healthy after recovery.
$36
USD
Safe Passage | $36 can provide refugees with critical information on how to access medical care, asylum services, and what to do in case their family is separated.
$50
USD
English Classes for Refugees | Learning English is a critical step for refugees as they begin their new life, apply for jobs and integrate into their communities.
$58
USD
Year of School | $58 can supply the tuition, books and other supplies a girl needs to attend school for a year.
$100
USD
Reuniting a Refugee Family | Our teams work tirelessly in some of the toughest conditions in the world to locate the child's family, get in contact with them and bring them together once again.
$335
USD
Community Health Worker Training | IRC-trained local health workers treat patients in their own communities for everything from eye infections to malaria, saving thousands of lives.
$500
USD
Mobile Medical Clinics | Our teams navigate rocky terrain, mudslides and other treacherous conditions to reach children and treat them for malnutrition, cholera, and other life-threatening illnesses.
$1,500
USD
Emergency Classroom | These emergency classrooms, provide a safe space for children to learn, express themselves and bond with other children, many of whom have lost friends and family members.
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