Three African refugees shared their stories in Davis Auditorium last Tuesday, April 14. The three refugees, two male and one female, shared their memories of escaping the civil war in Burundi and the genocide in Sudan.

The presentation was hosted by the African Community Center (ACC) in Denver. The refugees said the ACC has had a hugely positive impact on their lives, from helping them learn English to placing them in apartments. The refugees expressed thanks for having that resource.

The presentations began with an introduction from Professor Courtney Welton-Mitchell. She commented on the diversity in the crowd and gave a few facts about global refugees and the life they face.

According to Welton-Mitchell, only one percent of all refugees in the globe resettle in countries such as the U.S. The countries with the most refugees currently living in the U.S. are Bhutan, Burma, Iraq and Somalia. She also touched on the current crisis in Syria, stating that over five million people have been externally displaced.

The first refugee to speak was Hawa Salah from Sudan. When she was 15, she and her family fled to Egypt where they lived and worked for five years. In 2009 she moved to Denver with her family. She is now working at the ACC’s Safari Thrift shop and has a husband and two children.
“Life [in Sudan]is different. Totally different. Life was really hard where I grew up. No one had peace in their lives,” said Salah. “In America you have a choice to choose what you want in life. You can get an education and have the freedom to do whatever you would like.”

The next speaker was Tahani Mohamed, a 17-year-old girl from Darfur, Sudan. Mohamed moved to the U.S. with her family in 2010 when she was 14. She is about to graduate from South High School and plans to attend the University of North Carolina on scholarship in the fall.

Mohamed started breaking down on stage when she recalled seeing people that she knew murdered during the Sudanese genocide. She detailed the struggle to get water and the pain of not knowing where her father currently is or if he is even dead or alive.

The last speaker was George Serwenda from Burundi.
Serwenda fled his country multiple times between 1972 and 1993, finally fleeing to Tanzania in 1993, where he lived as a refugee until he resettled with his family in 2008. George works as a case manager at the ACC, the agency that helped settle him and the other speakers. He is now a U.S. citizen.

About 250 people attended the presentations, including DU students, professors and current ACC members. The presentations started at 6:30 and ran until 8:45. Before the presentations started, attendees were invited to enjoy light refreshments and look over a few ACC related vendors outside the auditorium. A donation was recommended for admittance.

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