When I arrived in Greensboro three years ago and reunited with my sister, we stayed up for more than 24 hours talking. That’s what happens after five years of separation — we were so excited to be together that we didn’t even notice that we were tired. This feeling of joy has only strengthened in the three years that I’ve spent in this vibrant, welcoming community.
I grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the youngest and only boy in a family of five girls. My childhood was marked by extreme poverty, housing instability and a constant threat of violence. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and moved to a refugee camp in Namibia in search of safety and a better life.
Instead what I found was a long, tedious and discouraging process to seek refuge. For eight years, I remained in the camp, applying for resettlement multiple times. But finally, I received the best news I ever could have dreamed of: “Your application has been accepted and the country you are going to is America.”
That’s how I found myself arriving at my sister’s doorstep in Greensboro in May 2018. From the moment I arrived, I have been welcomed by the community and been shown genuine kindness from our neighbors. One of my favorite memories occurred a few weeks after my arrival when we celebrated World Refugee Day with World Relief, the resettlement organization that I was placed with. It was a beautiful celebration that united people from all over the world with an eclectic array of foods, music and dancing from many different cultures. It was a beautiful, joyful and inspiring celebration of diversity and the many contributions refugees make to our community.
I feel so fortunate to be living here in the United States, and especially in Greensboro, but my heart aches for my brothers and sisters who are still waiting in refugee camps and enduring hazardous conditions, especially in the midst of a pandemic. I was one of the few fortunate ones. Throughout the four years of the Trump administration, the refugee resettlement program was nearly decimated. Last year, President Trump set the refugee admissions number to its lowest point in history — just 15,000 refugees. These barriers make what was already a difficult process nearly impossible for so many who desperately need refuge.
I’ve tried to do my part by working for World Relief. This is my way of giving back to those who have helped me along my journey, as well as assisting those who are in a similar position as I was three years ago — after all, with community support, refugees go on to make our communities stronger by volunteering, starting businesses and joining our military. But this alone is not enough. We need meaningful policy change from the top.
That’s why, on this World Refugee Day, I’m urging the Biden administration to meet the refugee admissions goal of 62,500 set for this fiscal year. President Biden waited three months to raise the cap, which caused significant harm for thousands of refugees who had already been approved to enter the U.S. We owe it to them to do better and to do so as quickly as possible. The closer we can get to resettling 62,500 refugees this year, the more likely we are to reach the president’s goal of resettling 125,000 refugees next year.
My biggest takeaway from my experience as a refugee is that there is an immense amount of need in the world. I am hopeful that the United States is back on the right track to address this need, but there is always more to be done. I implore readers to get involved — join me in calling on the Biden administration to resettle as many refugees as possible and then, please consider committing your time, your talents or your resources to these efforts. One option is to get involved in the Ration Challenge, in which families live off the rations of a refugee for a week to raise money for refugees not yet resettled.
Together, we can make a difference in the lives of refugees like me who seek a safer, healthier and happier future here in the United States.
Raphael Ramazani is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has lived in Greensboro for the past three years and he works as an employment specialist with World Relief Triad.