By Allana Wooley
FORT WORTH, Texas – June 23, 2013. The United Nations created World Refugee Day in 2001, in order to honor the courage, strength, and determination of women, men, and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict, and violence. Each year on June 20, civic groups, lawmakers, refugees and others take a moment to recognize struggle of refugees, to acknowledge the strides made by those whom have reached safety, and to reflect upon the needs of the more than 15 million refugees worldwide.
Jean-Claude at Capitol Hill for World Refugee Day.
June 20, 2013, former refugee and Refugee Services of Texas (RST) case worker, Jean-Claude Mauridi, joined a delegation of refugees in Washington D.C. to honor and to advocate for refugees on World Refugee Day.
Mauridi is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and was forced to flee his home when he was only 17 after refusing to join the recruiting rebel forces. He spent years as a young man in refugee camps in Tanzania (Oct 1996-March 1999), and Zimbabwe (March 1999-Dec. 2009). Mauridi remained determined and eventually earned his high school certificate, and undergraduate degree in Rural and Urban Planning, a master’s in International Relations in Zimbabwe. He currently is working on his second masters in public health administration in Texas.
While completing his education, Mauridi dedicated his time to working and volunteering with various refugee services, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). When Mauridi landed stateside in 2009, he continued working and advocating in order to serve refugees, and to advance their interests. He worked with his church to establish a Swahili service and separate refugee ministry which includes ESL classes, donated item storage, and a mentor pairing program. Now, Mauridi has a job with RST.
“Here I am peaceful, full of hope and living my dreams,” Mauridi said. “And the fact that it takes me here to Washington to be a voice for refugees shows me how much the United States is a leader on human rights.”
Mauridi traveled to Capitol Hill with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and more than 20 other advocates and former refugees to persuade U.S. lawmakers to support immigration measures that would assist refugees and asylees fleeing persecution to safely reach the United States.
“Afghanistan, South Sudan, Liberia, Vietnam, Iraq—we’re here from all over, together with our friends and allies from the faith community, with a message of thanks and hope that America will keep its commitment to protecting refugees overseas,” Mauridi said. “Too many lives depend on it.”
The delegation visited more than 30 congressional offices, advocating specifically for significant fiscal year 2014 funding from the Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services for refugee protection and assistance. It also sought the support for comprehensive immigration reform aiding refugees, and support for legislation to improve and reform refugee protection and the resettlement system.