Kindness helps refugees risk it all in search of the American dream

ROCHESTER, Minn. – It is often said that the United States is a nation of immigrants.

Next year, the federal government will admit up to 125,000 refugees to the United States, the highest number since 1993. Those who have the opportunity to do so in the United States risk it all in the pursuit of the American dream, and some achieve incredible success.

Here in southeast Minnesota, a shining example of the American promise sits on Austin City Council.

Council member Oballa Oballa arrived in the United States from a refugee camp in Kenya just seven years ago. At the time, Oballa, 20, spoke very little English, but jumped into the race, earning his GED and college degrees before becoming the first refugee on Austin City Council.

Oballa tells KIMT that after surviving life in a refugee camp where he sometimes went days without eating, he was determined to make the most of his opportunity in America.

“When I moved here I didn’t have a single dollar, I only have pants and a shirt,” Obala said. “If I can do it, there’s nowhere else I can’t do it.” You know, if I can do it in this refugee camp, I can do it in America. “

Anthony Monzon of KIMT News 3 spoke with Oballa about his inspiring journey during a special feature, sharing words of wisdom he has for newcomers, and how a little kindness can go a long way for our new neighbors. You can watch the full report above, which includes the story of how Anthony’s own family crossed the Gulf of Mexico from Cuba.

Resources for refugees, volunteers and donors:

Southern Minnesota Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program
Minnesota Lutheran Social Services
Minnesota International Institute
Minnesota Immigration Law Center
Intercultural mutual aid association
Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services
Arrive Ministries

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