Refugee friends made me realize how fortunate we are to enjoy all the freedom we have here in America

Appreciating freedom in America
Andrew and his friends

In honor of World Refugee Day 2017: Refugee friends made me realize how fortunate we are to enjoy all the freedom we have here in America

Appreciating freedom in America

Thirty  years ago, as a young man working as an accountant in Portland, Oregon, I was deeply moved by what I saw on the news about the famine in Ethiopia. I thought of writing a check, but I wanted to do more, so I decided to sponsor Abdu, a refugee from Eritrea. Things worked out so well that I eventually sponsored five refugees over the next couple of years. We lived together as a group in a Habitat for Humanity house.

Muslim and Christian—we were like brothers. Sharing food and laughs and tears and heartache. They did much more for me than I did for them by sharing with me their culture and food, dance and music. They also made me realize how fortunate we are to enjoy all the freedom we have here in America.

Holidays were especially joyful

Holidays were especially joyful as I explained the meaning of each American holiday and the history of each holiday event. To the refugees that I sponsored, Christmas and Thanksgiving were very interesting. They made and decorated with great creativity, using the traditional colors of their own countries. Many lively discussions and laughter and joy ensued. We called the house we shared “the United Nations.”

We celebrated everyone’s first job and first car. We even traveled to Roseburg, Oregon, where there was only one refugee family from Eritrea, just so they would have new friends and connections. We were invited to their local Lutheran Church where we worshiped with them, and the congregation sponsored a party for all refugees and sponsors.

I am very proud of all  of them. Kiyar is now a Physician, Mulat is a Pharmacist and Abdu is a Dental Technician. Their dreams have come true amid struggles and hardship.

In honor of World Refugee Day 2017, the Refugee Center Online is collecting stories of how refugees make our lives better.

The Refugee Center Online believes newcomers make our country a better place. Refugee resettlement is not just the moral or ethical thing to do – it benefits us and our communities as well. These stories from individuals around the country show how knowing, teaching, working with, and perhaps most importantly, being friends with, refugees have improved the lives of Americans.

Refugees shaking hands

World Refugee Day June 20, 2017

Find events in your community and learn how you can celebrate World Refugee Day 2017.

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About Andrew J. Perkins

Andrew J Perkins is a retired accountant of 37 years. He has a deep passion for learning about African culture, religions and languages. His other interests are jazz, photography, and men’s fashion.