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Refugee Advocacy Day at the Florida State Capitol

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On February 4, the IRC in Tallahassee’s staff, refugee clients and volunteers joined fellow advocates from the Florida Immigrant Coalition and We Are All America at the Florida State Capitol for the state’s first ever Refugee Advocacy Day.

IRC staff, clients and volunteer interns from Florida State University worked together to prepare in advance for meetings with federal and state legislators, with the goal of educating our state’s leaders on the refugee resettlement program and introducing members of Tallahassee’s new American community to their elected representatives. Our groups met with the offices of Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman Neal Dunn, State Senate Minority Leader Bill Montford, State Representative Loranne Ausley, and State Representative Ramon Alexander, and had productive and engaging conversations about how to keep Florida a welcoming state for families fleeing violence and persecution.

Saeed (far left) with IRC Tallahassee Site Manager, Una Bilic (center), IRC Caseworker, Shainance Mkoji (far right), and our amazing Florida State University interns at the Florida State Capitol.

18-year-old Saeed is originally from Syria and was welcomed to Tallahassee by the IRC along with his family in November 2016. In meetings with legislators, Saeed shared that he started working as a Barista at a local Starbucks not long after he arrived in Florida—a job that he has flourished in ever since—and was recently promoted to a Trainer position. As well as working at Starbucks, Saeed is also busy pursuing his GED and hopes to soon start college like his older sisters, Lubna and Yumna, who are enrolled at FAMU and Tallahassee Community College, respectively. In each meeting, Saeed emphasized that his focus is on education and he plans to work in social services after graduation. One staffer was so impressed with Saeed that they offered him an internship once he has enrolled in college!

Ntambwe and Freddy (center) with IRC Tallahassee Employment Specialist, Molly Woodsum (far left), Caseworker, Tara Catanach (second from right), and our amazing Florida State University interns.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, father and son, Ntambwe and Freddy, arrived in Tallahassee through the refugee resettlement program in April 2019. In meetings with legislators, they shared that they are both working as Grocery Store Clerks—Ntambwe at Apna Bazar and Freddy at Publix—and Freddy is also pursuing his GED and has a goal of becoming a mechanical engineer. He has passed two of the four required GED tests so far and his well on his way to success! Ntambwe shared in every meeting that he knows education will be the key to success for his children and how happy he is that Leon County has so many education options to help his children reach their goals. Both Freddy and Ntambwe expressed gratitude for the assistance they received from the IRC in finding housing and employment, setting up doctor’s appointments, and enrolling in school. Freddy stated that life in the refugee camp was very bad and they felt unsafe every day. He had no hope and saw no opportunities, but that all changed when they arrived in Tallahassee.

We are grateful to everyone who made the first ever Florida Refugee Advocacy Day a success and for the support of our elected leaders in ensuring that Florida remains a welcoming state. We look forward to accompanying more of our new American clients to the State Capitol in the future.

Learn more: The State of Resettlement in Florida

To learn more about the work of the IRC in Florida 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.

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