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Celebrating refugee success

Last updated 
Photo: Photo: Patricia Repolda

At the IRC in Tucson, there’s a culture of celebration. Cheers of joy can be regularly heard in the office when a refugee secures his or her first job in the U.S., or when the staff finds out that a family is moving in to their very own home. Staff members are inspired daily by the strength and determination of refugees. Many of them speak little or no English and come with very little resources at their disposal. But that doesn’t stop them from moving forward and striving to create better futures for themselves and their families. 

Yaya is one of the many refugees that exemplify such positive attitude. 

Yaya arrived with his family last year from Sudan. Immediately, staff at the IRC’s Learning and Education Program saw his efforts when he attended cultural orientation. Like so many refugees, he struggled to learn English. To provide Yaya with more support, staff connected him and his family to a family mentor and enrolled him into ESL classes at Pima Community College. Over the course of a year, Yaya practiced his English diligently. He attends not one, but two ESL classes each day that it is offered, completing over 200 hours of class time. Recognizing his progress, staff presented Yaya with an illustrated dictionary. When he received the book, Yaya smiled brightly and told staff; “I’m so happy! This will help me learn more reading and writing.” How far his English skills have come was evident from the way he expressed his gratitude. 

Although it was a simple gesture, Yaya couldn’t thank staff enough for helping him learn and improve his language skills. 

Success stories like Yaya’s inspire the IRC staff each day to assist refugees during such a critical time in their resettlement and see them through as they reestablish themselves in their new homes.