African Refugees Make Iowa Home

WHO-TV (Des Moines), May 1, 2008

Hispanics might be the most visible growing population here in Iowa, but it’s not the only one. Another immigrant group in Iowa has grown even faster the past year. The African immigrants are still getting used to electricity and running water.

160 Burundian refugees have resettled in central Iowa in the past year. Back in 1972, many families escaped the ethnic violence and genocide taking place in Burundi, and resettled in refugee camps in neighboring Tanzania, another impoverished country that could provide earth to live on, but little else.

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All these Burundians, like Simon Bucumi, were selected by the US government to take part in the refugee program, a life-saving break. “In the refugee camp you don’t know your future because you don’t have any plan for your life and your family and your future,” said refugee Simon Bucumi. “People die young because of frustration.”

Simon and his son were lucky to be among the small percentage selected each year. Like all the Burundi Iowans, they have loved ones in Tanzania, and so far no way to find them in the massive camps. Their string of luck continued here in Iowa, where for the first time Simon has met people anxious to help.

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