Area residents learn about refugee life

Gospel Kordah shares his experience fleeing Nigeria as a young boy. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

The newly-formed New Prague Community Action Network held its first program Sunday, April 30, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

The topic for the evening was refugees. Speaker Jane Graupman of the International Institute of Minnesota talked about what life is like in refugee camps, what challenges refugees face when coming to the United States and what efforts are made to help them adjust to their new home.

A second, previously unannounced speaker was also introduced. Gospel Kordah, who is the new boys soccer coach at New Prague High School, spoke about his experiences fleeing his home in Nigeria as a young boy and the challenges his family faced as he was growing up. 

Graupman spoke first, talking about how refugees come to the United States. She said a refugee differs from an immigrant in that refugees are admitted to the nation because they are "unwilling or unable to return to their country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution, based on their race, nationality, social status or political opinion."

Refugee status allows a person to stay in the US indefinitely, and they are authorized to work upon arrival. They have a path to citizenship within five years and are eligible for most public benefits.

"The vast majority of refugees do work toward citizenship," she said.

Graupman said when she started working for the institute, most refugees had a wait time of two years before they could come to the US. Now, that wait can be as long as 18 years. She showed photos of the Dabaab refugee camp in Kenya, which was built to house 60,000 people. It now houses 460,000.

"Many people will never....

To see more on this story pick up the May 11, 2017 print edition of The New Prague Times.