The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 87

G R O W I N G R O OTS I N R OA N O K E

REFUGEES IN ROANOKE,
BY THE NUMBERS
Refugees resettled
in the US in Fiscal Year
2016: 84,994
2017: 53,716
2018: 22,491

SOURCE: UNHCR

Refugees resettled
in Roanoke in Fiscal Year
2016: 282
2017: 221
2018: 77

SOURCE: COMMONWEALTH CATHOLIC CHARITIES

Top 10 countries of origin
for refugees resettled
in US in Fiscal Year 2018

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 7,878
BURMA: 3,555
UKRAINE: 2,635
BHUTAN: 2,228
ERITREA: 1,269
AFGHANISTAN: 805
EL SALVADOR: 725
PAKISTAN: 441
RUSSIA: 437
ETHIOPIA: 376

SOURCE: REFUGEE REPROCESSING CENTER

Top 10 countries of origin
for refugees resettled in
Virginia in Fiscal Year 2017

AFGHANISTAN: 2,776
IRAQ: 291
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 183
SYRIA: 147
CUBA: 133
BHUTAN: 93
IRAN: 88
ETHIOPIA: 78
PAKISTAN: 59
ERITREA: 51

SOURCE: COMMONWEALTH CATHOLIC CHARITIES

Roanoke's population: 99,837
Percentage of foreign-born
residents in Roanoke: 7.57%
SOURCE: US CENSUS DATA, 2017

TheRoanoker.com

literacy and job training. They are connected
to community resources, helped to apply for
Social Security numbers. Many refugees
quickly land jobs with companies that CCC
has been in communication with for years.
"The goal is for them to become selfsufficient, financially independent and
integrated into our community," says
Bhattarai.
But the way forward can be hard after
living with the level of uncertainty, chaos
and violence that so many refugees have
endured - often for decades.
"Being resettled in a new country itself
is traumatic, but the amount of trauma
refugees experienced before coming has
an effect," explains Blue Ridge Literacy's
Holladay. "The individuals we see are the
most resilient."
For most, Roanoke is a welcoming
community, Holladay says. Not so big as
to be overwhelming, not so small as to be
isolating. The cost of living is low. And
the mountains can feel familiar to some
of the largest groups of recent immigrants
- Afghans, Pakistanis and Nepalis.
Despite having a population of only
around 100,000, Roanoke boasts citizens
from 106 different nationalities, says
Bhattarai. "That's pretty good." he says.
"That tells you who we are as a community."

finding H O M E
Nzikobanyanka points from her back
porch to a corner of her yard. This will be
her garden come summer, bursting with

tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. And there,
that is where she will grow her flowers.
She walks through her tidy house and
settles onto an over-stuffed chair. Amida
watches SpongeBob SquarePants on a
big-screen TV, while tapping newly blown
balloons in the air.
2014 was the year she and her husband
and son became a family again. It was also
the year she moved into this house, bought
with work hours and hard-earned pay. She
welcomed her daughter into the world.
And became a US citizen.
Now, five years later, Nzikobanyanka is
even more connected to her community -
watching Ahmad's soccer games at Patrick
Henry High School, taking Amida to
swim at the Kirk Family Y.
Though she desperately misses the
beauty of Africa, the more laid-back life
there, and the people she left behind,
Nzikobanyanka knows her place is in
America, in Roanoke, now.
"If I had peace in my country, I would
not be here. But I don't have a choice," she
says. "This is God's plan."
At 33, Evelyne Nzikobanyanka has
different goals than she did when she
arrived a decade ago, a single mother
who spoke broken English and had no
idea how to balance her bank account.
In the next few years, she hopes to head
back to school, to pay off her mortgage, to
help Amida settle in at kindergarten and
Ahmad go off to college.
What she doesn't have are any plans to
move. She hopes she is never again forced
to start from nothing, without even the
words to communicate what she needs.
"I love Roanoke," she says, flashing her
bright white teeth in a big smile. "I call
here home now." I

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MAY/JUNE 2019

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The Roanoker - May/June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - May/June 2019

The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Intro
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover1
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover2
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 3
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 4
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 5
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The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover3
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover4
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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_201403
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_201402
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