24-year-old Charlotte was resettled by the IRC in Atlanta in May this year, along with her parents and five younger siblings—three sisters and two brothers. Forced to flee ongoing violence and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the family had been living as refugees in South Africa when they were finally selected and approved to come to the United States through the resettlement program. Fluent in English, Swahili and Lingala, Charlotte picked up Afrikaans as her fourth language while they waited for a chance to rebuild their lives.
Despite record numbers of displaced individuals, the number of resettlement slots available around the world were halved between 2016 and 2017. The Trump Administration has drastically cut the US refugee admissions ceiling, from 110,000 down to 45,000, then to 30,000 for fiscal year 2019. The IRC in Atlanta has welcomed more than 500 refugees to Georgia so far this year—including Charlotte and her family—but this is half of the more than 1,000 individuals we resettled in 2016.
She remembers the journey to Atlanta feeling incredibly long, a 15-hour flight from Johannesburg to JFK before arriving at their final destination. IRC staff were there to greet the family at the airport and take them to a clean, safe and furnished apartment. In the days following her arrival, the IRC's Resettlement team assisted Charlotte with getting her social security number and state ID, and ensured she was connected to a primary care provider for necessary appointments. Within just one month of arriving in Atlanta, Charlotte secured a job at Clarkston Primary and Urgent Care working as an interpreter and receptionist, where she helps her new neighbors as they learn English and navigate the healthcare system.
Having only been in the US for two months, Charlotte is still adjusting and occasionally gets lost riding MARTA, but she finds the people here “very friendly” and feels—most importantly—that she doesn’t get treated differently from others. With plans to go back to school to study nursing, Charlotte is full of hope for the future and told her IRC caseworker: “Take fire as it comes. Go and see how you can make it better.”
To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.