New project highlights struggles, triumphs of local refugee families pic 1
New project highlights struggles, triumphs of local refugee families
Posted at 11:08 PM, May 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-16 19:52:32-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - According to the International Rescue Committee, out of the nearly 20 million refugees in the world, fewer than 1% are considered for resettlement.

These refugees are fleeing violence and persecution in other countries, coming to the U.S. legally to start over in safety. However, even when a family is chosen to come to our country, their challenges don't end at the airport.

Until recent, Patrick Pilipili, his wife, and their six kids had never posed for a family photo. It's these little luxuries, things we often take for granted, that mean so much to Pilipili and his family.

"Tallahassee is very good. I have a good life here," said Pilipili.

The family just moved to Tallahassee about a year ago, coming as refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Although coming here was the first time the family felt truly safe, the move and complete culture shock that came with it wasn't easy.

Helping families deal with those differences are Suzy Cop and Una Bilic. They work for the International Rescue Committee. The non-profit has only had an office in Tallahassee since 2015, but since it opened, the city has been flooded with refugees.

"Tallahassee is a good place for resettlement," said Cop. "The refugees can actually integrate easier, jobs and so forth. Education, low cost of living."

When a refugee family first comes to America, they have 90 days of help from the government. In that time, they have to get the foundation of their lives established. That includes seeing a doctor, getting kids enrolled in school, learning English, and so much more.

So what happens after that 90 days? Non-profit groups, local churches, and people like Jen Stewart and Alex Workman step in.

Through their involvement with a local church, Workman and Stewart both joined a group of people working to help local refugee families.

Workman recently launched, a website where he posts pictures and tells the stories of the families he's met. The project also raises money, collects donations, and helps people in Tallahassee get to know our local refugee families.

"These are families who are already here," said Workman. "For me, the politics are behind us. So that's kind of how I see this as not being political, but about being about our community and welcoming people into our community."

"These are human beings. These are human beings that have seen suffering that I have never even dreamed of in my worst nightmares," said Stewart. "They're coming here for a better life and it just happens to be in my town, which is now their town. It's really that simple."

Showing something as simple as picture can help a refugee family show their new city how much this fresh start means.

"I need to show Tallahassee we can sit together. Black, white, we are one," said Pilipili.