Julie Hamula, a senior studying political science, said she found her place in refugee service work while completing an internship for the International Rescue Committee in Boise, Idaho this past Winter semester.
The International Rescue Committee “is helping people survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities,” according to the official website.
According to the American Immigration Council, there were over 14 million refugees throughout the world in 2014. The U.S. expects to take in 85,000 refugees this year, according to the AIC.
Hamula said while doing the internship there, she found herself in the middle of a battle for refuge.
Hamula said she came in contact with a family of seven in a refugee camp after they were forced to flee their home in Malawi. Hamula said she watched as they found a new place to call home — Boise, Idaho — after waiting eight years for refuge.
Hamula said she worked with caseworkers while serving as an intern. She said she helped pick refugees up from the airport, transport them to hotels and give them cultural orientation when they first arrived. She said she assisted them many aspects of adjusting to U.S., from helping them get social security cards to teaching them how to use the kitchen stove.
She said that it was unique to get to work with refugees hands-on because she never been exposed to comparable circumstances before.
“A lot of people living in America tend to feel like the boat is being rocked considering there are new people here,” Hamula said. “But it’s harder for them. They come from such harsh environments, and they worked hard to get here.”
Hamula said oftentimes, when refugees arrive in America, they believe things will work out the way they imagined it to be. The refugees hope to make a fast adjustment to society in the U.S. She said they have to work just as hard as any other Americab to reach their goals.
Many of the refugees had a difficult time adjusting to the U.S. “A lot of people living in America tend to feel like the boat is being rocked considering there are new people here,” Hamula said. “But it’s harder for them [the refugees]. They come from such harsh environments, and they worked hard to get here.
“They have the same desires we have,” Hamula said. “They want to feel safe, they want to feel loved, and they want to be successful.”
Hamula said many of the refugees she came across had dreamed of becoming police officers, lawyers or members of the military. She said many of them wanted to defend the U.S. and the freedom it holds.
Hamula said the experiences she had with refugees opened her eyes. She said she believes that everyone should get educated on refugees so that U.S. citizens can defend them.
“We’re all so much more alike than you’d think,” Hamula said. “Some of my favorite moments with them were the ones when we cracked up at things we found funny; it’s cool to see how we had a similar sense of humor. They each have their own backgrounds and stories to tell — but ultimately, we are all children of God on the same journey.”
Hamula said it is difficult than it may seem for refugees to find substantial places to live at in the U.S.
“Many people seem to assume that refugees are so different from us and don’t want to help them settle in,” Hamula said.
She said they are not that different from anyone else.
“I think what Julie did is very noble,” said Angelena Goldwater, a freshman majoring in marriage and family studies. “It’s scary to think about the refugee problem we face, but if it were me, I would hope that someone would be willing to take me in.”
In April, Elder Patrick Kearon, a general authority seventy, addressed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about how they can each help refugees.
“As members of the Church, as people, we don’t have to look back far in our history to reflect on times when we were refugees, violently driven from homes and farms over and over again,” Kearon said.
Kearon said members of the Church were persecuted many times. The members had been refugees before, and it is their privilege to serve those who are in a similar situation.
These refugees look forward to playing a role in American society, according to the IRC website.