Dallas Event Celebrates North Texas Refugee Population

An event in Dallas Saturday recognized refugees from all over the world who've made North Texas home. The festivities at Conrad High School included one man who never knew what life was like outside a refugee camp, until he moved here.

As a group performs a Burundian drum and dance number, the sound and the movement on the stage should be the flavors of home, to Jean Congera. But they're not.

"Growing up in a refugee camp, one word is said," said Congera. "It's miserable."

His parents were from Burundi, but Congera's family was forced into refugee camps by civil war.

"Life is like a Jenga game," he said. "You build, you build, someone comes and pulls it out and you start over again. That's how life in a refugee camp was."

Stories which many at the Dallas event for refugees can relate to. Congera began planning his move to the United States in 2002. Four years later in the complicated process, he finally made it.

"To me, it was a miracle," he said. "I was like, God, I can't believe this was happening."

World Refugee Day, which is recognized on June 20, was created by the United Nations in 2000. It celebrates the strength and resilience of those who found home, when many had no country to call home.

"Such unfortunate circumstances have brought them here," said Liz Curfman, director of Northwest Community Center, a Vickery Meadow-based service which assists refugees in their transition. "We want them to know we value them. We appreciate what they've been though to get here and we see them as our new neighbors."

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. is no longer the top world destination for refugees. It's harder to get in.

"I understand the President has the responsibility to keep the country safe, people in and people out," said Congera. "But in my heart, I wish many more people get a chance like I got."

Congera, who became a U.S. citizen six years ago, now ministers to other refugees. People who also hope to call North Texas their home.

"You don't understand until you hear someone who is struggling to get it," he said. "It is a huge blessing to be a U.S. citizen."

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