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By Meah Benage, Marketing Junior

What does it mean to be a refugee?  A refugee is someone who has been left with no choice but to flee their native country because of persecution and violence against their ethnic or religious group. . But the meaning of a refugee is much deeper than that. A refugee is someone looking for hope on the other side where the grass is much greener, where freedom to express oneself is encouraged, and where a better tomorrow is never too far out of sight. These are the desires of refugees as they escape war and violence within their home. Thanks to the help of the Arizona Refugee Connection, many refugees are able to finally accomplish these desires and dreams as the cloudiness finally begins to drift away.

Refugees come from all across the globe looking for a better environment to live in without the worries and fears of persecution. Many of them are finding themselves relocating to the U.S. According to the 2008 records from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most of the refugees came from Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, and various countries in Africa. California and Texas quickly became the two states where a large majority of refugees were relocated that year. Arizona acquired a little over 3,000 refugees; around 1100 of them were settled in Tucson, and the numbers just continue to rise. With these large numbers of refugees coming in, it is crucial for Tucson to assist them all in adapting to a way of life that is probably a complete 360 turn from what they’re used to.  Although the three local refugee resettlement agencies take responsibility for bringing refugees to Tucson, housing them, and helping with their resettlement to the US, these agencies are often underfunded and overworked.   And that is where the Arizona Refugee Connection made the decision to step up and take on this responsibility.

Arizona Refugee Connection is an organization made up of students from the University of Arizona who wish to help refugees with their resettlement in Tucson in any way, shape, and form, while at the same time obtaining real-world business functional experience for their own resumes. Some of their projects include increasing refugee employment, collecting school supplies for refugee children, and assisting refugee entrepreneurs in developing the business skills and tools needed to be successful. They also reach out to the community by creating community garden projects and putting on major social and educational events, such as the Refugee Community Connections Fair and Refugee Healthcare Fair, each of which attracted hundreds of Pima County’s refugees to attend this year. These devoted student volunteers  try to help the refugees become more comfortable and involved within the Tucson community so that it makes their integration into the U.S. culture easier.

An important aspect that allows the Arizona Refuge Connection to continue working on all of their projects is the help from the community. If one was looking to get involved with them, there are many ways to do so. Donations, sponsorships, volunteering, and financial support are major ways in which Tucson organizations can assist ARC in its efforts.  This club has made tremendous success in assisting refugees adapt to life here in Tucson, but of course, there is never such thing as too many helping hands.

Refugees resettling in Tucson find help in transitioning from constant fear to freedom with the help of the Arizona Refugee Connection. Escaping persecution and relocating in a world completely different from what their used to, refugees are faced with problems of adapting to a new way of life. ARC students assist these refugees in hopes for a better tomorrow. By the use of their different projects, ARC is able to reach out to their community and spread awareness on issues involving refugee resettlement in Pima County.