Refugees who study together find community, friendship and acceptance
I found freedom with my classmates and community with everyone at NSC.
Couri is a 36 year old wife and mother of four. She was born in Burkina Faso, in a family with four brothers and three sisters. She grew up speaking both French, which she speaks beautifully, and her native language, Moore. She had the privilege to be educated and became an elementary school teacher.
Couri's father died in 2005. By that time she was married to her husband, Ibrahim, a businessman who sold foods and other supplies to the government. There were accusations of dishonesty, bribery, and credit problems which made Ibrahim a wanted man in 2009. He received numerous death threats. By 2010 Ibrahim had obtained a visa to the US, but the US police were waiting for him at the airport. He ended up spending nine months in prison. After prison, he found a good lawyer who assisted him in getting his green card in 2012. He found work as a mechanic and began saving money to send for his family.
Back in Burkina Faso, Couri and her children were also threatened by the government because of her husband’s former business so they moved from the capital city of Ouagadougou to an obscure village where no one would be able to find them. Pregnant with the couple's third child, Couri continued to teach school.
On January 4, 2014 she was summoned to the US embassy in Burkina Faso to sign many, many papers. She received her visa in March; her husband sent money for plane tickets. Couri and her three children arrived in Philadelphia on July 14, 2014. The family was eligible to receive Welfare benefits and as refugees were directed to NSC. Couri has been attending English class with a break of several months following the birth of her fourth child. She is back in class and is eager to work.
Like many refugees, Couri has experienced both challenges and successes during her first year in the US. She misses her teaching job and is sometimes frustrated with the job market here and with having to express herself in English. On the plus side, she is very happy to be reunited with her husband. She likes her apartment and the people in her neighborhood and looks forward to working soon.
Couri is an active member of the Refugee Employment and Advancement Program (REAP) class and often engages newcomers to make them feel welcome such as Bert and Ludie. Couri says her approach to making new friends in class is, “I say your name, where are you from, and after, you talk about your family. I eat lunch and share foods [with new friends] and field trips and travel together.” Bert is from Ethiopia and joined the REAP class in late August 2015. He is eager to make new friends and help his classmates learn English. Ludie is from Bhutan and joined the REAP class in June 2015. With new encouraging friends like Couri, Ludie says she likes taking the 47 Bus home with her new friends and Bert said “ I found freedom with my classmates and community with everyone at NSC.”