Post by DCF Secretary David Wilkins
Yesterday and over the past few weeks, we have been holding events in honor of World Refugee Day. More refugees flee to Florida than any other state, and DCF is charged with administering federal funding to refugees to help them acclimate to American culture and society.
This unique population encounters many challenges—from learning English to becoming familiar with modern conveniences, such as indoor plumbing and electricity. Despite these obstacles, we know many refugees who are living in Florida are not only getting by, they are thriving.
Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting Aime Kalangwa a young man from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Aime and his brother came to Florida in 2011 as the only survivors in their family of their country’s ongoing civil war. They were adopted by a supportive, loving family just as he was beginning his senior year of high school.
With the help of his adoptive parents, Aime tackled cultural and language barriers head-on. He dedicated himself to his studies by working with tutors daily to pass his classes and learn English. Learning American history was particularly challenging because all the material was new. He had never heard of George Washington, the Bill of Rights or the Civil Rights Movement—it was all new to him. But he didn’t just get by; he excelled. His dedication to learning the history of his new country was recognized when he received the award for Outstanding Achievement in American History at his senior awards night.
Today, he continues to pursue his education at Broward College studying Criminal Justice. He is an activist, spokesperson and mentor for other young refugees and is looking forward to becoming an American citizen when he graduates.
Aime’s is just one of the many stories of refugees who flee from war and oppression, build a new life and thrive. Their stories truly inspire and show us that the American dream is alive and well here in Florida.