UNIV 190-003: Understanding Service and Social Justice: The Refugee Experience in America
This semester, along with my three friends Jeronimo Anaya, Cyryl Jakubik, and Reed Leopold and mentor, Erica Wiethorn, I worked closely with the Malonga family, a family of Congolese refugees who came to Chicago last October. Our main activities with the Malonga family includes visiting them on a bi-weekly basis, interacting with them to help them improve their conversational English, taking them out on visits to downtown Chicago, and playing soccer with them on weekends. Although these activities seem very shallow on the surface, I actually got to find out more about each of the five brothers, their stories from home, and their hopes for their new life here in Chicago. I believe I have made a positive impact on their lives because I have, in my own small ways, helped them adapt more quickly to their new lives here in Chicago. With each visit, I helped them improve bit by bit their English conversational skills as well as got them to open up more about their past experiences and what they wish to achieve.
After this three-month experience, there are three things which I would like to improve with regards to the experience that refugees get when they first come to America. First of all, it would be beneficial to the refugee families to have student groups like my friends and I to help aid them with their English speaking skills within the first few months, or even up to a year of their stay. Secondly, the voluntary agencies should be more helpful in the refugees’ search for jobs. Simply giving them an apartment, simple furniture, and three months of rent alone is not enough. One cannot really expect refugees, who do not know any English at all, to go out and find jobs that pay well enough to sustain rent, even at the level that the most run-down housing facilities have. Lastly, it would be helpful to have all the refugees gather at a local community center to interact with local people so that they feel more welcome into the society and get accustomed more quickly to the local way of life instead of feeling estranged whenever they step out of the door to go to school or work. All these steps will encourage voluntary agencies and students to actively found out even more ways to help refugees have a pleasant experience in their new lives here in America.