World Refugee Day: In their own words

20 June, 2024

Right now, there are over 117 million people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety. That number is more than just a statistic. There are as many stories and unique voices as there are refugees.

At IsraAID, we have had the privilege to work with refugee and internally displaced communities around the world – from Ukraine, to Colombia, to Kenya – to learn about the challenges they face, their dreams for the future, and what gives them hope away from home. Many of our staff members around the world are refugees or IDPs themselves, and continuously inspire us with their resilience and dedication to helping others.

This World Refugee Day, we wanted to honor those unique voices and allow them to speak in their own words. We spoke with refugees and internally displaced people in four of the countries we work in and asked them what they wanted to share.

Learning English in Uganda

Fred was a surgeon in his home country, Democratic Republic of Congo. He was forced to flee his home amid ongoing civil conflict, and now lives in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in southwest Uganda.

Nakivale is the world’s 8th largest refugee settlement, and hosts refugees from many countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and many more. With so many nationalities, ethnicities, and languages, communication can be one of the biggest challenges to feeling at home. Uganda is also home to hundreds of cultures and languages, but the common language is English.

Fred enrolled in one of IsraAID’s English courses, which are meant to help new arrivals learn a common language so that they can easily interact with locals, meet new people, learn about and access available services, and take an active role in their new communities. After finishing the course, Fred shared his excitement. He’s enthusiastic that with his new skills, he will be able to find a new job and continue rebuilding his life.

Feeling less alone in Ukraine

When his hometown of Slyovyansk became unsafe to live in, 10-year-old Elizar was forced to flee, leaving behind his beloved pet cat Reddy. Elizar and his family found shelter in Odesa, where they officially became IDPs, an experience that has been enormously lonely for Elizar.

IsraAID’s Quokka Hubs, our child-friendly spaces in Ukraine, offered him something he desperately needed – communication with his peers. There he met Artem and Danylo.

A year later, the boys’ friendship now goes beyond the hub activities. The three of them love adding to the mood of the Hub and sharing their music recommendations. Elizar has adopted a hamster and feels much more confident in its presence. Through his new friends, and despite the memories of his former home, he’s begun taking the steps, however small, toward a normal life in a new place.

‘Tomorrow will be yours’: Finding success in Kenya

Riziki is a mother of five who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today she lives in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Turkana Country Kenya.

Despite facing challenges, like the recent drought in the Horn of Africa, Riziki has devoted herself to making a positive impact in the community. She has opened three shops and established a safe space for over 150 students to learn after school. She is now pursuing a counselling degree so that she can better serve her community.

This World Refugee Day, she wanted to share a message to fellow refugees around the world:

“Dear fellow refugees,

A refugee is someone who escapes conflict, persecution, violence, and economic hardship, yet still possesses the ability, the power, and the strength to achieve their dreams and succeed.

Tomorrow will be yours. This situation will eventually come to an end, but, for now, it’s important to understand and accept your current circumstances.

Keep hoping. Keep doing. Keep going.”

Keeping the family together in Colombia.

Yasmirian was forced to leave her home in Venezuela due to the economic situation in the country, and lives today in Bogota, Colombia. She met IsraAID two years when they helped her go through the process of getting documents for the children and enrolling them in school. Since then, she regularly attends talks and programs as she rebuilds her life.

“I’m in a relatively good position because I have my family,” she says. “My mom came, I have her help and my siblings’ help. We’re all together – we’re all one, we’re united. We help each other. But it’s also been hard for us to come here. We left so much behind and it was a hard thing to do. But we can only move forward.”

Yasmirian adds, that even if she’s building a new life here, Venezuela will always be her home: “I was born there, I grew up there. I also like it here in Colombia. It’s not always easy, but I’m here and I’m fighting and I’m making it. But I wouldn’t trade my country for the world. Venezuela will always be Venezuela for me.”

Related articles

20 June, 2024


Right now, there are over 117 million people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety. That number is more than just a statistic. There are as many stories and unique voices as...

World Refugee Day: In their own words

7 March, 2024


This International Women’s Day, we’re honoring all the different ways that women hold up their communities. Investing in women’s futures, in their skills, knowledge, education, and empowerment, supports everyone’s well-being. Today, we’re sharing inspiring stories of women around the world,...

International Women’s Day: Empowered Women Empower Communities

20 June, 2023


“I won’t deny that at first there was suspicion,” says Angi Reyes, a Venezuelan migrant living in Barranquilla, Colombia, “there were some people who did not completely accept us.” Joleth Gil, a local Colombian, agrees. “There was uncertainty. Who are...

World Refugee Day: Breaking the Stigma