Stories about refugees have become a bit of a cliché. Journalists and other writers tend to stress the chaos and destruction of war and the trauma of flight facing refugees, but less often do they narrate the epilogue: resettling, rebuilding, picking up lives where they were left off (“Refugees Are Not the Crisis.”). While stories about conflict and escape can promote empathy, they also can have a distancing effect; the hardships which refugees encounter can feel so foreign to an average Western reader that they do not know how to engage with the issue or how to interact with their refugee neighbors. As a result, refugees can feel isolated and unsupported, often with detrimental effects on their physical and mental health (Kelly 9). In this project, I hope to develop a website which tells the epilogue to refugees’ narratives in the United States, specifically in DC and Charlotte, two major areas for refugee resettlement in the US (“Fact Sheet”). Through written stories, audio and video clips, and digitized art, this website will provide an interactive platform for refugees to share their stories. Not only will this project enable refugees to feel heard and supported, but it will also help American readers to better understand, empathize, and connect with their new neighbors.
This project will rely primarily upon interviews conducted over phone, Skype, or in person, as well as written and digitized pieces. Davidson’s T&I department has recording devices which can be checked out for interviews. I am connected with a refugee community in DC and could conduct interviews with my friends there over the phone. I would have to reach out to other programs in Charlotte such as Refugee Support Services in order to connect with refugees here. Other background information, such as facts about refugee populations or information about how state governments are helping out would come websites such as the National Immigration Forum or Refugee Support Services.
In 2017, I helped start a program to welcome Syrian refugees to DC. Through the program, I was able to hear refugees’ narratives firsthand, all of which were beautiful and moving. But just as powerful are the epilogues, the stories of acclamation to the US, the struggles and successes of learning English, raising children, learning to drive, looking for work, finding community. These are stories which the media often overlooks, but they are worth hearing because they are stories of incredible hope and resilience. I would find this project fascinating, and it would be a fairly feasible way to preserve and publicize refugees’ epilogues. In order to publish this information, however, this project will require an approval from Davidson’s IRB office, a process which may take about two weeks. All information will have to be presented in a way to protect participants and preserve anonymity if necessary. It may take time to collect stories from contributors, but I have a head start with connections in DC, and there are plenty of available resources to connect with more people in Charlotte. My dream for this epilogue project is that it will promote hope and empowerment for refugees in DC and Charlotte because they feel heard. I also hope that this project will help its American audience to better understand their new neighbors so that they can mutually learn from and support each other.
Altman, Tess. “Engaging Refugee Narratives.” Anthropology Today, vol 33, no. 5, Oct. 2017, pp. 32, https://rai.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/1467-8322.12383
“Fact Sheet: U.S. Refugee Resettlement.” National Immigration Forum, 25 Jan. 2019, immigrationforum.org/article/fact-sheet-u-s-refugee-resettlement/.
Ijeoma, Ekene. “The Refugee Project.” The Refugee Project, www.therefugeeproject.org/#/2018.
“Interactive Reporting.” Refugee Processing Center, ireports.wrapsnet.org/Interactive-Reporting/EnumType/Report?ItemPath=%2Frpt_WebArrivalsReports%2FMap%2B-%2BArrivals%2Bby%2BState%2Band%2BNationality.
“Refugee Info.” Refugee Support Services, www.refugeesupportservices.org/refugee-info/.
“Refugee Services.” NCDHHS, NC Department of Health and Human Services, www.ncdhhs.gov/assistance/refugee-services.
“Refugees Are Not the Crisis. It’s the Narratives We Tell about Them.” UNHCR Innovation, The UN Refugee Agency, 18 Jan. 2018, www.unhcr.org/innovation/refugees-are-not-the-crisis-its-the-narratives-we-tell-about-them/.
Kelly, Michael. “Welcome Home Rochester: Guiding Refugees through Life in America.” Order No. 10600602, Rochester Institute of Technology, 2017, https://ezproxy.lib.davidson.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1936353806?accountid=10427.