Imagine being faced with a terrible choice – risk persecution, imprisonment, and torture, or leave behind everything you’ve ever known for a slim chance at safety? What would you do, if your survival was at stake?
Every day across the world, people like you and me are forced to flee their homelands because of violence and persecution. This is the reality of an unprecedented 21.3 million refugees worldwide, including the 623 refugee women, men, and children from 20 countries that the International Institute of New England (IINE) resettled in the past year in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. These clients had the courage to fight for new lives, and with our help are now reclaiming the future that was stolen from them.
Recently, I met Hanna Petros Solomon, a refugee from Eritrea who risked her life twice to come to the United States. Orphaned at a young age, Hanna and her siblings had little chance of surviving one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Together, they made the decision to escape – and were caught. For three years, Hanna was transferred from prison to prison, places known to be rife with torture and other human rights abuses.
Eventually, Hanna convinced a prison guard to let her go. This time, she successfully escaped from Eritrea with her siblings and fled to Ethiopia, before resettling to the U.S. as a refugee in 2012 and reuniting with her grandmother and sister in Boston. Yet the safety of family and a new life could not erase the trauma she experienced in her homeland. To acclimate to her new surroundings and transition to American life, Hanna needed the diligent assistance of IINE staff.
Hanna’s caseworker placed her in our English and Cultural Orientation classes at our Boston site, where she learned how to navigate her new city and its cultural expectations. Hanna then enrolled in and graduated from our Hospitality Training Program, and with the help of her training specialist found work as a server at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel.
Today, Hanna is looking ahead to her next graduation ceremony. As a junior at Tufts University studying clinical psychology, she is determined to help others like her heal from mental and emotional trauma. One day, Hanna would like to return to Eritrea and be a part of fixing its broken mental healthcare system. But first, we are pleased to welcome her as an intern at IINE in Boston this summer.
“I chose to intern at IINE,” explains Hanna, “because I want to show clients and my refugee peers that they can make it in life. They have the chance to change their lives.”
In 2016, the Institute served 1,737 new Americans like Hanna. As our nation wrestles with questions about how open our borders and society should be, IINE continues to provide education, job training, and other critical programming to people seeking safety and the chance of prosperity. Our services are needed now more than ever, and we are grateful for the support and dedication of our community.
Today, we ask you to help those whose lives have been upended by violence and persecution. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift and honor the courage and bravery of people like Hanna, as they work toward a brighter future in the United States.
As we prepare to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, we have an opportunity this year to receive a matching $25,000 contribution thanks to the generosity of some of our supporters. For all gifts made to IINE by June 30, these donors will match dollar-for-dollar all gifts of $1,000 or more, and will provide a match of 50 cents for every dollar raised from contributions of less than $1,000. This means your gift will go farther and help even more immigrants and refugees – but only until June 30.
Thank you for your generous support, and for helping us give newcomers like Hanna a chance to change their lives.