By: IRC staff
After waiting years for travel authorization, refugees and other humanitarian immigrants arrive in the U.S. eager to settle in and start rebuilding their lives. However, many of those who arrived during the COVID-19 pandemic have found themselves waiting again, as they have had to put off exploring their surroundings, making social connections, and pursuing their goals. With the vaccine effort starting and the end of the pandemic finally in sight, we asked our clients to tell us what they are most looking forward to doing once it is safe. Here is what they had to say:
For sure I want to know the city better. I want to get involved with people and communicate with them more. I want to know their language and their culture. Right now there is a space between people. Everybody is keeping to themselves; they don’t want to be near anyone. When it’s safe, we’ll know more people. When we’re shopping and going to parks, talking with people will be easier.
--Amir, refugee from Iraq
I heard from the people who were here before the pandemic that they used to attend English classes in person, to meet different people and make friendships, but now English class is online, so there is no chance to get to know anyone. You can see the other students on the screen, but it is not the same as in person, because you cannot have a personal conversation. When the class is over, it’s over, and everybody signs off. I’m looking forward to being in class together with my classmates.
--Nadine, refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo
I haven’t seen the real face of the U.S. yet. I am waiting for the end of the pandemic and the end of the restrictions so I can see what the real U.S. will be like. It will be a place of freedom, of people enjoying their lives and being able to go places with their families. I want to see public parks, public monuments, and historical places. Even outdoor places are not that lively right now.
--Mohammad, Special Immigrant Visa holder from Afghanistan
The first thing I want to do is get certified as a lifeguard. Eventually I would like to become a rafting guide on a river. I am waiting for tourism to pick up so there will be more opportunities to do that kind of job. Before coming to the U.S. I was in Turkey, where I was not allowed to work. When I got here, I was allowed to work and learn and do anything. I felt a sense of freedom, but at the same time, I couldn’t do things due to the pandemic restrictions. I want to work and get my education, to progress towards my goals with the freedom that I have here.
--Farhad, refugee from Iran
The feeling that life is on hold during the pandemic is a common one, but the interruption is felt particularly acutely by refugees and other immigrants who have already experienced so much disruption. If you would like to contribute to IRC programming which helps our clients make the best of the present and prepare for a brighter post-pandemic future, you can donate here.