The African Community Center - Denver, Colorado
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Annual National Conference on African Refugees


The African Community Center

1201 E. Colfax Avenue
Suite #201
Denver, CO 80218
Tel: (303) 399 4500
Fax: (303)399 4502

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The African Community Center: A Light Of Hope in a Lost Boy's Life, by Gaelle Sevenier, The Diplomat
Gaelle Sevenier, MS from The University of Denver.

James was six years old when soldiers blindly massacred most people in his village in the South of Sudan. The little boy had no other choice but running away in the desert, leaving behind his childhood and his entire family. James never saw his parents after that day, although he has recently heard about their death. During months, he faced starvation, thirst, and attacks from the northern army, bandits or lions. Thousands of children were walking along with him. There only hope was to reach Ethiopia . Once they finally arrived in the neighbor country, the children had to face a terrible reality: the lost Sudanese were not welcome and were forced to go back. Once again on the road, the more fortunate finally managed to reach Kenya . By the time they had reached the Kakuma Refugee Camp where most of the refugees stayed 9 years living in miserable conditions, the number of what NGOs have called “the Lost Boys of Sudan” had been cut nearly in half. The United Nations estimates that four million Southerners have been internally displaced from the war zone (UNHCU 1998 e:4). The Sudanese civil war between a northern Islamic government and Christian and animist rebels in the South began in 1983, creating what has been described as “among the most badly war-traumatized children ever examined.”

In 2001, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, working with the State Department, recommended about 3,600 of the lost boys for resettlement in the United States. In Denver, The African Community Center is a new non-profit organization which helps newcomers from diverse cultural heritages become self-sufficient and contributing members of the community. Many of their clients arrive in the country with nothing else but the cloth they were wearing when they were forced to leave. The African Community Center assists them in finding housing, training, and employment, and in adjusting to the new cultural environment. The agency manages to survive on grants and donations, but the needs are considerable.

The African Community Center depends on volunteers, in-kind and financial donations as well as on the solidarity of employers in order to help the newly arriving families (for any additional information, call (303) 399 4500.) There are many ways American people can help. First of all, the solidarity of American employers in hiring refugees and allowing them to become self-sufficient is crucial. Hiring political refugees not only brings cultural diversity and multi language skills to the work place but also employers have constantly commented on the high level of job performance of the employees. Most refugees arrive with the skills and desire to work hard. Moreover, they have the benefit of the Colorado refugee network to teach them proper work etiquette, provide translators if necessary and help with the job training.

Mahtma Gandhi once said “We must become the change we want to see in the world.” We now all have the possibility to “become the change” and to truly make a difference in our society. A simple phone call to the African Community Center, and you can become the first American friend of a refugee, give a family a ride when they need it, help them move to their new place or get prepared to a job interview; you can also share with the Agency your personal contacts for employment or volunteer a few hours of your time in the office or during special events. Today, thanks to the African Community Center and to people like you, hundreds of refugees have hope for a better life. James, who is now no more a “boy” but a young man of Sudan , is working and studying very hard in order to go to college. James promised himself that, someday, he will pass it on and help those who also struggle for an identity.

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