Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Darfur Refugees Arrive in Anchorage

Save Darfur Anchorage hosted a picnic on May 10th to welcome Darfur refugees to Anchorage. All have been in Anchorage for less than 2 months and one man and his mother arrived only four days before the picnic. This same man and mother lived in a refugee camp in Ghana before being moved to Anchorage. In the refugee camp they befriended the Karief family, who were moved to Anchorage just over a month ago and who also attended the picnic!

Like any picnic there was a lot of eating and laughter, some games, and a lot of chatting to get to know each other. We located on a map where our guests lived before leaving Sudan. We learned about their lives prior to the Genocide. One man operated heavy machinery, another was a shopkeeper. And, we learned some about the refugee placement process.

The placement process is a long one. One man had left Darfur in 1999, others left Sudan in 2003, and still others in 2005. Some lived in refugee camps for years while awaiting placement. All moved to Anchorage because that's where there were placement openings. No one "picked" Anchorage.

Many of the refugees are enrolled in English as a Second Language classes and they are doing great, although some are more shy than others to try out their English. The children are picking up the English very quickly.

We are looking forward to getting to know more about our new friends and to providing opportunities for Anchorage to learn more about them, too.