Refugee Program Sees Budget Cuts

By: Elizabeth Lamb Email
By: Elizabeth Lamb Email

HARRISONBURG, Va -- Less money could mean fewer services for international refugees. Refugees rely on the organization, Church World Service, to help them feel at home.

Yasser Rasheed is an Iraq refugee and he has been in the U.S. for just 13 days. He said he escaped an unsafe situation overseas and ended up in Harrisonburg.

“It's just to get a better life here and a better education,” said Rasheed.

Rasheed is part of an immigrant class. On Wednesday, other immigrants learned about health care. Students also learn about education in the U.S. and how the government works.

Rasheed said the refugee service has helped him learn about the basics as he starts his new life in the United States.

“I know I can have a good starting from here. I'm sure I can get what I want, and I know I can get my degree. I'm going to be an American citizen, so, I'm proud of that.”

The program has lost 20-percent of its funding due to cuts at the federal and state level.

Rebecca Sprague, a life skills teacher, hopes refugees will still settle in Harrisonburg and learn about our culture.

“I see this as an investment. These people are here, because they want to be here, because they love America and they want to participate fully in our society,” said Sprague.

Rasheed said his classmates rely on refugee services to help them and they do not know what they would do if the program is cut even more.

“In my case, I can imagine myself, because I'm young, I speak the language, but many people who don't speak the language and have many children, for sure this is going to be so hard for them without these programs,” said Rasheed.

Harrisonburg and the rest of the Valley is home to refugees from around the world. Refugees from Egypt, the Ukraine and Colombia have settled here.

The refugee settlement group has relied partly on private donations and business donations to stay open.

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