I was born a Burundi refugee into a family of Burundi refugees. In 1970, both of my parents became refugees when they were forced to flee to Congo from our country of origin, Burundi, due to war. My mother was only a year old and my father was 10. They both spent a year in Congo before being forced to flee again, this time to Rwanda where they grew up and began our family.
The year I was born, 1990, war broke out in Rwanda, and my parents did not leave right away but often had to hide me as a baby to protect me when things got worse. I was four years old when the genocide began and my family decided to cross the border and flee to Tanzania, where we spent over 10 years in three different refugee camps. While life in Tanzania was free of conflict, the education and resources were poor, and we lived in fear everyday of being sent back to the unrest of Burundi or victims of a crime.
In 2007 my family and I were given an opportunity to come to the United States to start a new life. We have worked very hard to learn the new language and become educated. We love it here and are thankful we have been given a chance to have a better and meaningful life.
Being a refugee is not a choice. My mom as an infant did not choose to become a refugee, it was a choice that was made for her and she had no control over. It is important to welcome immigrants and refugees because they need a chance to create a life that they deserve. When most immigrants and refugees are given a chance to come here, they take advantage of it and create opportunity not only beneficial to themselves but the country by creating businesses, becoming educated and contributing to the economy. We should welcome immigrant or refugees because not only are we giving them a chance for a new life, but also helping to increase business, economic growth and available jobs. Refugees and immigrants do not take jobs but help to create jobs.
People can create a more vibrant and welcoming region by getting to know their refugee or immigrant neighbors, offering to teach an English class at your local library, or even just waving and smiling when you see them. Take time to listen, because sometimes when people discover the person they are talking to speaks English as second language they immediately lose interest in listening to them. Get to know them.