Josephine Barijane arrived in the United States in January 2012 with seven children – her own five, as well as a niece and a nephew whose parents had died – and little else. Genocide in her home nation of Burundi had forced the family to flee to Rwanda, then later the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then Kenya before finally arriving as refugees in Abilene, Texas.
Because Abilene is one of 22 U.S. cities with a branch of the International Rescue Committee, Josephine and her children were able to build a new life here after years of fleeing war and genocide.
In Josephine’s case, the Abilene IRC began by helping her rent her a house. She also received assistance with basic supplies, cultural orientation, job assistance, school and language classes. A community volunteer mentor was assigned to help the family acclimate to a new country and culture. Through the IRC’s employment program, Josephine soon found a job as a housekeeper at Hendrick Health System, and her adult daughter found employment as well. The five younger children enrolled in school in AISD.
Two years after arriving, one of her children has graduated from Abilene High School, and two are set to graduate in May. Josephine is currently saving toward a down payment on their first house. The family has received permanent residency status and looks forward to applying for citizenship in January 2017.
Thousands of refugees like Josephine are invited by the U.S. government to seek safety and freedom in America. Many come from crowded camps and life-threatening conflict zones around the world, often waiting years for a place to call home.
When refugees arrive in Abilene, the IRC helps them adjust to life in the U.S. by securing safe and affordable housing, providing mentors, facilitating school enrollment for children, and helping refugees learn about their new community.
Employment is critical to the success of newly-arrived refugees. All refugees come to the U.S. legally and are given immediate authorization to work. The IRC provides ongoing job readiness training and works closely with local employers and business associations to match refugees with available jobs. Within six months of arrival, the majority of refugees are economically self-sufficient.
Experts in immigration help refugees and immigrants with family reunification, permanent residency and U.S. citizenship.
Volunteers from the community are an essential part of the integration into the community for these families who are building a new home in the U.S.
Volunteers are needed to assist with:
life skills and English tutoring
computer literacy training
job readiness training
For more information on the IRC or to volunteer, contact Katie.Tan@rescue.org.