Refugees are people like you


As part of my History Without Borders class this semester, I’ve been learning a lot about a very important topic through firsthand accounts of others.

As a class, we have had the opportunity to interview various people from Erie involved with the refugees in our area — some who work with refugees, some who were refugees and some who are refugees.

Going into the class I had little knowledge about the refugees in the Erie area. Although I’m not from Erie, I’m somewhat familiar with the city and I figured maybe a few hundred refugees lived here.

According to an estimate by Dylanna Jackson, director of the International Institute of Erie, Erie’s current refugee population is around 10,000. This number accounts for about 10 percent of the city’s total population.

As such a large part of the community, Erie refugees are an important part of Erie’s economy and society, which is something that I feel not many people realize or appreciate.

When Jackson visited our class to talk to us about refugees and their journeys, I began to appreciate just how difficult it must be for a refugee to travel to a place that he/she is completely unfamiliar with, with little to no money and just his/her hopes and family to keep them going.

Gannon University’s own biology professor, Dr. Quyen Aoh, was a refugee who traveled from her home country of Vietnam when she was just an infant.

Aoh was a guest speaker that our class was able to meet with and during her interview she shared stories of her parents’ hardships and memories of being teased in school because of her ethnicity.

Looking at how successful she is today you would never know that she came from a refugee family that at one point in time struggled to make ends meet.

I was inspired by her journey and the story of her father’s hard work that allowed for their success in America.

Another guest speaker who moved me was Kamal Ghimrie, a refugee from Nepal. Ghimrie settled in Erie just six months ago.

A former educator, Ghimrie had no problem sharing his story with my class and had a rather charming and funny personality.

Ghimrie’s thoughts and words about refugees stood out to me and inspired me to write this column.

He made a point of saying that refugees are capable of good work and that they want to work and better themselves.

They just want to be treated with the same mindset because they are the same. They are human beings.

While language can act as a barrier, it shouldn’t cause a definite divide.

Refugees are people just like you and me. While they may not be able to communicate or relate to us on the same level, they still are compassionate, intelligent and ambitious individuals.

Today, especially in the current political climate, I think people easily dehumanize refugees and treat them just as a number or an object.

These people deserve all the appreciation in the world for what they’ve been through, not mistreatment and misled hostility.

As our country enters a new era, it’s important that we show respect and tolerance to people from other nations.

Refugees are important members of our city and our nation and it’s time to start treating them as such.


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