Items tagged with 'refugees'

Finding refuge: Rifat Filkins

RISSE Rifat Filkins

Rifat Filkins came to Albany from Pakistan to help run RISSE.

Last week we shared the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region. To finish the series, we talked with a person who's not a refugee, but has learned a lot about the refugee experience.

Rifat Filkins came to the United States from Pakistan in 2009 on an employment visa to take a job with RISSE, the Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus in Albany.

Since then the program has grown from serving 40 immigrant and refugee families to serving 200 families from 22 different countries. It runs after-school and summer programs for children, teaches English as a second language, and helps immigrants and refugees get settled and adjusted in their new city.

Filkins is now an American citizen -- she has a husband and a daughter in Albany. And we talked with her about her experience coming to this country, and how we can all help refugees and immigrants.

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Finding refuge: Zina Prokofyeva, Sameerah Moharb, Sakuntala Chhetri

finding refuge Zina Prokofyeva and Sameerah Moharb and Sakuntala Chetri

From left to right: Zina Prokofyeva, Sameerah Moharb, Sakuntala Chhetri.

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

One of the most immediate challenges for many of the refugees making a new life here is learning English. It's an obstacle not only for getting a job, but also connecting with the wider community.

We talked with three people who are working through this challenge.

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Finding refuge: Francis Sengabo

Francis Sengabo

Francis Sengabo came from Rwanda and founded a program to help other refugee families.

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

For 17 years, Francis Sengabo was a man without a country.

In 1994, Sengabo escaped the genocide in Rwanda and went to a refugee camp in Tanzania. In Rwanda he had worked in planning and administration and later for the Red Cross and the UN High Commission for Refugees. In the camp in Tanzania he worked helping refugees while he waited for the UNHCR to decide where in the world he would go next.

He almost ended up in Australia. Thousands of Capital Region refugee families are better off because he landed, instead, in Albany.

Sengabo is one of the founders of RISSE, Refuge and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus, where he's now the operations director.

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Finding refuge: Olivier Mandevu

Olivier Mandevu

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Olivier Mandevu came to Albany ten years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo via a refugee camp in Burundi. In Africa, he went to college and became a teacher. But a horrible ethnic conflict forced Mandevu and his family to seek asylum in the United States.

Today, Mandevu lives in Albany with his wife and five children. Since arriving here, he has gone to school and worked his way up from a hospital file clerk, to a bank employee, to his current job in finance for a New York State contractor.

Five years ago, Olivier Mandevu was sworn in as a US citizen and he is passionate about civic engagement and helping other immigrants and refugees.

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Finding refuge: Ni-Lar Way, Besa Paw, Christer-Say, Christer-Htoo

Nilar Christer Say Besa and Christer Htoo

Ni-Lar Way, Christer-Say, Besa Paw, and Christer-Htoo

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Ni-Lar Way, Besa Paw, and sisters Christer-Say and Christer-Htoo are Karen refugees whose families were driven from Burma/Myanmar to camps in Thailand.

Christer-Say and Christer-Htoo are twins. They lived in the same camp as Ni-Lar, Christer-Htoo's best friend. Ni-Lar and her family moved to Albany. Later, the sisters' parents were told they were going to the United States. They considered making North Carolina their home, but Christer-Htoo put her foot down.

"I know that my best friend is here," she remembers. "I said, mom, if you don't come to Albany I'm not going to go to America!"

Today all three girls are students at Bishop Maginn High School in Albany, along with Besa Paw, another Burmese girl who came from a different camp in Thailand.

Bishop Maginn allowed us to share a few minutes of the teen's school day to talk about their lives before and after coming to the US, and their hopes for the future.

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Finding refuge: Tafsela Hashimi

Tafsela Hashimi.JPG

Tafsela Hashimi: "I want to give back"

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Tafsela Hashimi came to the United States from Afghanistan about a year ago, with only her baby boy. She is reticent about why she fled her country for the United States -- she says she did not feel safe at home.

Tafsela wants to study. At home in Afghanistan she was forced to leave school. Here in the Capital Region, she is a single mother, raising a child, and working toward her dream of becoming a doctor.

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Finding refuge: Haeneypew Sey

Haeneypew  Sey.JPG

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Haeneypew Sey is from Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.

She and her family came to the United States nearly two years ago, after spending 23 years in a refugee camp.

Today she spends her time learning English, and working slowly toward becoming an American citizen.

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Finding refuge: Amgad Abdalla

Amgad Abdalla

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Amgad Abdalla and his family came to Albany from Sudan when he was 8 years old. He attended Hackett Middle School, Albany High, and Hudson Valley Community College, He's an American citizen now and dreams of being an engineer and working with refugees.

Abdalla's a driver and volunteer for RISSE in Albany, and still feels at home in this community of immigrants in the Capital Region because he's lived most of his life among immigrants and refugees.

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Finding Refuge: Niebiha

Niebiha

Niebiha and her two daughters on the playground at RISSE.

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Niebiha is from Iraq.

Her husband was a house painter there and she raised their children. A car crash changed her life, and forced her to find a new home.

She and her family have now lived in Albany for five years. Her husband is a driver at the Albany International Airport and Niebiha is a cook and a volunteer translator for other refugees at RISSE -- an org in the Pine Hills neighborhood center that assists refugees and immigrants in the Capital Region.

When we spoke with Niebha she was preparing to take her citizenship exam.

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This week: Finding Refuge

albany refugee stories composite

Refugees.

They're people we hear about often. There are stories about them in the media. Politicians and officials talk about them. And they come up in discussions in our places of worship and in conversations with friends and family. Less often we hear from the refugees themselves.

The Capital Region is home to hundreds of refugee families from struggling and war torn countries around the world, and many of them have settled in the city of Albany as they work to piece together new lives in this country.

Over the last few months, a handful of refugees were kind enough to talk with AOA about their experiences in adjusting to life in the Capital Region.

This week, we'll be sharing their stories -- about the places they came from, about the challenges they've faced, about some of the opportunities and joys they've found here.

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