By ALANA PERSSON, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — As present global conflicts are forcing millions of individuals to flee their home countries, nations around the world are opening their borders to refugees in need of a place to resettle. Recognizing that Laconia has been one of the cities in New Hampshire welcoming refugees for the past 20 years, the Laconia Human Relations Committee is hosting an educational refugee resettlement roundtable forum in Laconia which will allow community members to better understand the process of resettlement in the region.
The forum will be held on Monday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m., at the Woodside Building at the Taylor Community. The forum aims to educate citizens on why refugee resettlement occurs and the process individuals must go through to get refuge in the United States. Carol Pierce, director of the Laconia Human Relations Committee, will facilitate a conversation with local refugees who have first hand accounts of how the process works in our region.
One individual speaking about his experience as a refugee is Seifu Ragassa, who arrived in the United States in 1999. Prior to his resettlement, Ragassa worked as a journalist in Ethiopia. However, due to his politically charged articles, he was forced to flee his country to escape persecution from the government. Seeking refuge in Kenya, Ragassa worked with the United States embassies and was able to assist in finding terrorists in Africa, until he was able to resettle as a refugee in the Lakes Region, where he has since continued to live and work.
"Coming to the United States as a refugee was a challenge," said Ragassa. "There was limited transportation and resources, and even though I had a college degree abroad, I could only get an entry-level job when I entered the United States. It definitely was not an easy transition."
Despite the initial challenges, Ragassa worked countless hours at various jobs and applied to local scholastic institutions to continue his education. Attending Southern New Hampshire University, he studied political science and business, and additionally received his master's degree in justice studies. After completing his educational endeavors, Ragassa was able to secure a job with the New Hampshire Department Corrections - Laconia Facility and continues to work as New Hampshire probation and parole officer, and is presently studying to receive his MBA.
Although Ragassa has acclimated to life in the United States well, he recognizes that integration into the United States is not as smooth for other people. Thus, Ragassa has spent his time in the Lakes Region working with other refugees to help them find jobs and a place in the community.
"It is a hard transition for refugees and often there is a language barrier that makes it hard for people to easily adapt and find jobs," said Ragassa. "But I found that by working with new refugees and connecting them to people like Carol Pierce has made their resettlement a success."
Stories like Ragassa's will be shared at the roundtable forum, specifically discussing what challenges refugees had when they came to the United States and how they overcame them, as well as an informational presentation explaining the difference between immigrants and refugees. The forum is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested by calling 524-5600.
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 1204