A better opportunity for refugees in Tallahassee

Refugee families seek refuge in Tallahassee, Florida. Photo courtesy the International Rescue Committee

War, violence and natural disaster have created a refugee crisis in the world. More than 1,000 refugees have been placed in the Big Bend area. Many of the families come from the Middle East, Africa, Congo, and Uganda. 

 The U.S. government works with the International Rescue Committee and eight other national resettlement agencies to help the refugees restart their lives in America.

Molly Woodsum a representative for the International Rescue Committee has played a huge role in the placement of the families seeking refuge. 

“It is estimated that Tallahassee, Florida has over 20 refugee families, 124 clients last year,” said Woodsum.

In Tallahassee, the IRC provides families with housing, rental assistance and food for them to cook. They are also provided a caseworker who helps the refugees with food stamps, Florida ID, Medicaid insurance, Social Security number, and employment.

Terra Catanech, Interim site manager, advocates for refugee families.

“Many families fled their homes to neighboring countries. The families stay in refugee camps for approximately 10 years, until they receive a letter from the government saying they can move to better living. The government decides on the location of the refugees. The refugees have a two-year background check to go through,” said Catanech.

In an effort to get refugee families acclimated into their new life in Tallahassee, The Big Bend community donates furniture and clothing. 

Once the families get to Tallahassee, Florida the IRC enrolls students into school and provides their parents with free English lessons. 

The IRC also helps refugees seek employment. Metz Culinary services at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University employ many of the refugees. 

“Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University is a huge help to IRC and the families looking for employment. Helping these families get jobs it really does mean a lot,” said Terra Catanech. 

The last family to come to Tallahassee, Florida is from Uganda. Of that Ugandan family is Ngena Yolondjwa.

Ngena Yolondjwa, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said, “I think here in America, here in Tallahassee, I’ll fulfill my dream. I’ve been welcomed by everyone in Tallahassee her and I are thankful for that,” Yolondjwa told WTXL at,“ ACE celebrates Tallahassee refugees on World Refugee Day.”