Every year, some 700 refugees arrive in Charlotte hoping to start a new life. They are all fleeing horrific, usually violent, persecution.
They come from places such as Afghanistan and Syria, Eritrea and Iraq. They do not speak English, and they are dumped into a city they’ve never heard of with a culture that is entirely alien. They strive to find work and establish a more sustainable life for their families in this new, foreign world.
That is made easier by groups like Refugee Support Services. That Charlotte nonprofit, with five staffers and more than 250 volunteers, works to help refugees adjust. They communicate with schools, orient them to the grocery story, help line up medical care, read their mail to them. They help them find friends and build community and become self-sufficient.
“Their spirits are so resilient and they have such great hope,” said Rachel Humphries, co-founder of RSS. “And to come to a community like Charlotte and find people with open arms and welcoming is life-changing for them.”
Last month, the group held a giant birthday party for more than 250 refugees from more than a dozen countries. Many refugees don’t know their birthdate and are assigned Jan. 1 as their birthday upon arrival in the U.S. In a chaotic world and with anti-immigrant status in the U.S. at a fever pitch, it was a reminder of the humanity we should all show to people this country has long welcomed. And it was a small moment that made Charlotte’s newest residents feel just a little bit more at home.