A Refugee’s story of Resettlement from Liberia to Antioch
|Photo Credit: IRC Northern California.|
Chances are, if you visit the IRC’s Oakland office, you will be greeted by James Beyan, a smiling, warm-hearted man who helps out in our lobby each Tuesday from 9 am until 4 pm. His sweet demeanor is just the first step to learning his incredible life story that began in his home country of Liberia and now sees him residing in Antioch, CA.
James was born in Ziggida, Liberia, but his desire to help others spurred him to move to Monrovia after secondary school to pursue a career as a nurse. After completing his nursing degree, James found work at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, where in addition to his regular nursing duties, he could be found providing health education classes to local clinics or visiting surrounding community to provide much needed health services.
During the 1990s, as James lived in Monrovia with his nursing career and a growing family, Liberia fell into a brutal civil war. He found himself and his family right in the middle of the chaotic conflict that followed, and James quickly decided they all needed to flee. After gathering his family, they set out to Liberia’s neighbor to the east, the Ivory Coast. The road they took was rife with on-going violence and a nearby explosion severely injured James in the head. As a result of his injury, James and his wife Margarette were captured, but his children managed to break free and they safely reached the Ivory Coast. James and Margarette both suffered great physical harm during their captivity with the rebel forces until their rescue by the Economic Community of West African State Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).
Soon after their release, James and Margarette were reunited with their children who had made it safely to Ivory Coast. The whole family stayed in Ivory Coast for a couple months while both James and Margarette received medical treatment and rehabilitation for their injuries. Unfortunately, their time in captivity had left enduring marks. The severe head trauma sustained by James during their initial escape from Liberia led to progressive blindness, which is now complete, and Margarette was left with permanent physical disabilities. Once James and Margarette were well enough to travel, the family left for the Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana, which was sponsored by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
James and his family stayed at this refugee camp until 2005, when they finally passed their pre-screening medical and immigration interviews and were offered third country resettlement to the US. James and his family arrived at the Oakland International Airport on November 17th, 2005, where he was greeted by family that had already been resettled in the Bay Area. They first stayed in Pittsburg, CA, for a few months before finally settling in Antioch, CA, where they currently live today. James received his U.S. Green Card in 2009 and, with the assistance of IRC Oakland, achieved full U.S. citizenship in 2011. But more notably, James recently obtained a Liberal Arts Degree in Arts and Humanities from Los Medanos College.
James can still recall a conversation with a counselor during his recovery at the Ivory Coast. The counselor said that he needed to focus and be thankful that he has his life, no matter what the physical disabilities or challenges he will face. From that day forward, James has lived his life drawing inspiration from the belief that he still had a meaningful role – and we could not agree more.
For more information on programs offered by the IRC in Northern California or on how you can help James Beyan and his family, please contact Audra.Brown@rescue.org.