Christmas – A First for Refugees

Christmas is that wonderful time of the year when families gather together to celebrate and have fun. It’s a time to be thankful for all that you have and to delight in all the new things that are to come. Sometimes we forget how lucky we truly are to have a hot meal on the table every night, and to live each day without being in constant fear of violence and war. Something like that is really worth celebrating, and no one knows this better than Cecil Furaha, her husband Saidi Roger, and their 7 children.


Furaha was born and grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she faced danger and violence. She watched people’s heads being smashed in, including children’s heads, and she lost both of her parents in the wars. They finally made the decision to run away in the middle of the night when Roger’s father was murdered with a machete to the neck.


After running for 2 miles, they made it to a refugee camp run by the United Nations. They spent many years there, going through the application process and waiting to be granted asylum in America. When they were finally granted asylum, they had given birth to 4 children, and had adopted 3.


Moving to America was a huge change for the entire family, and they are still slowly adjusting. The children are getting help in school, learning English, and finally getting the educations they deserve to have.


This year was the first year that they celebrated Christmas in America, and there’s no better Christmas gift than freedom. After years and years of waiting, they can now live in an environment where they feel completely safe.


The family says that Christmas is a much more exciting time of the year in America than it is in Africa. There, Christmas is just another day of the year where you might get together with family, have a soda, and say “thank you, Jesus,” but here, it’s a much bigger deal. All the kids were very excited and had a blast with setting up a fake tree and decorating it – it was definitely something new to them.


Christmas is the perfect time of the year to help someone -or even an entire family- out. And Sharon Fine couldn’t have been happier to have her synagogue sponsor refugee families. She has become personally invested to help this family in particular, and her family visits them at least once a week. Her teenage children spend time with and help Furaha’s kids learn to speak English, and Fine’s husband is always just a call away if they ever need any help. The families are so close that they consider everyone to be part of one big family now.


Stories like this are heartwarming, especially during this time of the year. But less and less families are being helped now since Trump’s travel ban. In just this past year, there were 31,225 fewer families that were able to seek asylum and get the help they needed. Christmas and the New Year is supposed to be a time for giving to others and great new beginnings, but it seems that we are lacking in that. Maybe the new year will bring some much needed positive changes so that we can continue to grow and help others.

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