Tuesday, May 8, 2012

[Several times while I was in Kakuma Refugee Camp, I was asked for advice from refugees awaiting resettlement.  They wanted to know what they could be doing in the camp to prepare themselves for their new lives.  I had a hard time coming up with ideas.  How do you prepare yourself to move from a mud hut in the edges of Kenya to a modern city in the West?  This is my complete stab in the dark at useful advice.]

Advice to a Refugee

As you await your resettlement, the most important thing I can tell you, is to practice English as much as you can.  I can’t stress it enough.  This will be the key to opportunity.  The better your English, the more options you will have in your new home for school, for jobs, for friends.

My next best piece of advice is to cultivate a willingness in yourself to try new things.  Go to other groups in the camp, try the food, find out their customs.  This way, when you get to a new country, you will be used to new and unusual flavors and ideas.  The more things you are open to, the easier it will be to embrace the culture of your new home and start your new life.

Finally, know that it won’t be easy.  I don’t say that to be discouraging.  I actually think that having an accurate expectation will make it easier.  Just know that arrival is not the end of the journey.  There is still much to be done once you get here.  The opportunities will be there, but it will be up to you to seek them out and make them happen.  And of course you can and you will, because you have already made it this far.  

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