Neighbors of MN
Rahima

“I am a refugee.

When I hear people talk about refugees, I often hear people refer to refugees as lazy, complacent, living on public assistance and always in need of help. It bothers me so much. I barely ever hear refugees praised for their strength and resilience.


I barely ever hear refugees praised for their strength and resilience.


I would like to tell you how it feels to be a refugee; displaced from your home country and your loved ones, and living outside of your comfort zone. Leaving everything behind and starting a new life takes a strength that not everyone possesses.

I moved to the U.S. without any family and without knowing anyone in Minnesota four years ago.

When I first arrived everything felt amazing and everyone seemed nice and welcoming. I was settled with the help of Arrive Ministries and they tried to help me get a job with minimum wage and a place to live; but their support was only for three months. During those first three months I felt safe, peaceful and well taken care of. I felt there were people who cared about me and that I could confidently rely on them for guidance or support. During this time I didn’t have to worry about basic needs like health insurance, rent, or food. I call those three first month my honeymoon phase.


I felt safe, peaceful and well taken care of. I felt there were people who cared about me and that I could confidently rely on them for guidance or support.


After those three months when resettlement agencies step out of the picture, I had to figure things out by myself. I didn’t know how I could pay $800 in rent when I only earned a little more than a $1,000 a month. That’s when the next phase hit me very hard. I felt devastated. I felt like a toddler who was thrown in the water by myself to either sink or learn to swim. One day I had a home, and the next day I had to move out because I was unable to pay rent. Thankfully, a generous volunteer from Arrive Ministries offered me a place to stay until I started making more money. I was lucky enough that I learned functional English and I had problem solving skills which enabled me to maneuver through this stage without much damage to my mental health.

I know some refugees who had severe mental health issues after arriving in the U.S., even contemplating suicide because they saw no way out. Some other refugees I know even considered to go back to their dangerous home country to live in an unsafe place when government support ended before they could get a job offering a livable wage.


Once I felt a little more secure, the reality of being a foreigner in a strange land set-in.


Once I felt a little more secure, the reality of being a foreigner in a strange land set-in. I started noticing other people passing judgment on me because I was a refugee. At the grocery store where I work, I was able to see how some employees offered far worse service to refugees than toward other non-refugee customers. One time someone told me that because I was a refugee, my only job would ever be working at a grocery store cleaning up after white people. This was very painful and shattered my dream of having a good life of equality.

There is a stereotype that refugees do not want to work or are constantly hopping between jobs. What I have seen firsthand is that many refugees are experiencing unjust treatment by their employers who overwork them, which causes them to quit their jobs.

Most refugees I know want to work hard. I have been working since the second month of my arrival in the U.S. and I know many like me who work two or three jobs. I don’t believe refugees want to use public assistance unless it is their only choice.


It is so inspiring to see that many hard-working refugees have built business in America and are contributing toward the growth of our economy.


It is so inspiring to see that many hard-working refugees have built business in America and are contributing toward the growth of our economy.

I am still trying to fit into this new world, new culture, new tradition,  new people four years after arriving here. I have a deep need to belong. I am hopeful that my hard work will pay off. My wish for the future is that my fellow American neighbors will learn to celebrate the diversity I bring to this country and will see that refugees make America a richer and kinder place to live; and that I belong here too.”