More than 65 million people worldwide are currently displaced from their homes...more than any other time in history. Last year just under 85, 000 refugees resettled in the United States- more than 5,000 of them here in Michigan.Finding Refuge is our week long series introducing viewers to five different refugees who are rebuilding their lives here in West Michigan.
WZZM 13 is sharing stories of refugees who have resettled here. We recognize this is a controversial topic and many people feel strongly about limiting the practice of bringing refugees to the U.S., something only the Department of State is authorized to do.
Organizations, including Bethany Christian Services, work with resettlement agencies to provide services and training to adjust to life in the U.S. once they arrive.
We want to point out that all five of the individuals we spoke with came to this country before President Donald Trump's travel order was signed. A revised version currently is held up in the courts.
Our goal is to simply introduce you to these people who are already living as our neighbors in West Michigan.
Throughout the week we will also bring in other perspectives like law enforcement and a local Church. We spoke with a representative from the United Nations Refugee Agency who provides insight on just how thorough the refugee vetting process is.
Check back throughout the week for more on each individual story and additional information on what it means to be a refugee as oppose to a migrant.
ABDOUL HAVUGIMANA, Congolese Refugee
Havugimana lost both of his parents when he was just 4-years-old during the Civil War in the Congo. He went onto live in Rwanda before finally resettling in the United States five years ago. Now, he is a senior at Calvin College. Click here to learn how he has turned his past into his motivation for the future.
MUHAMMAD ZADRAN, Afghanistani Refugee
Muhammad Zadran better known as Ilyas, spent four years trying to get to him and his family to America from the Pakistani refugee camp where they used to reside. Ilyas and his family now live in Holland where they have been building a life together for the last nine months. Click here to watch how Ilyas is learning to coexist in his new home, and workplace.
EMMANUEL MAYOR, South Sudanese Refugee
Emmanuel's family started the process of immigrating to the U.S. from a refugee camp in Kenya back in 2008 and they just arrived here in October. Now the 25-year-old is working at Walker-based Profile Films. Click here to hear from him and his employer about just how valuable hard workers like Mayor are in our economy.
ESTER KAMALIZA, Congolese Refugee
It took Ester Kamaliza five years just to get to America, and another five to get her U.S. citizenship. But she's made strides in the time she's been here. At 22-years-old she already runs her own certified nonprofit organization and is attending school to become a registered nurse. Click here to hear to Ester's story.
NANDU DANGAL, Burmese Refugee
Nandu Dangal arrived in America just 9 years ago. He says his life here in West Michigan is incomparable to life he once lived in a Nepal refugee camp. He once earned a penny for a day's worth of work, now he sits under the roof of a building and business that he owns. Click here to watch Nandu's story.
OTHER PERSPECTIVES ON REFUGEES IN WEST MICHIGAN:
DONNA ABOTT, Bethany Christian Services Representative
Bethany Christian Services is an organization that has helped refugees get acclimated in Michigan for decades. Click here to learn about the ways they help, and how you can get involved, as well.
CHIEF JAMES CARMODY, Wyoming Police Department
President Trump's tightening of immigration laws has resulted in numerous raids led by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Click here to hear from a local police chief on what's it like to be in law enforcement during this time of increased public fear.
CHRIS BOIAN, Senior Spokesperson for United Nations High Commission for Refugees
The refugee vetting process is a lengthy and scrupulous. We spoke with a representative from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to understand just how intensive it can be. Click here to hear from senior spokesperson Chris Boian.
NEW AMERICAN ACADEMY, Wyoming Police Department
Wyoming Police Department partnered with Bethany Christian Services for three years, with hopes of a fourth year of their program New American Academy. A program that allows for the police department to connect with resettled refugees in the area. Click here to learn more about the program.
HOPE WEBSTER, Blythefield Hills Baptist Church
Bethany Christian Services partners with several churches across West Michigan to help refugees who are resettling in Michigan get acclimated. Blythefield Hills Baptist church in Rockford is one of those partners. The congregation has welcomed two Syrian refugee families into their community by helping with housing, furniture, transportation, language learning and much more. While both families are Muslim, they faithfully attend the Christian church services every Sunday morning.