“Refugee” is a word that as of recently is being tossed around quite frequently in the news.

Based on the way this particular word is being used, it appears that there is some confusion on what exactly a refugee is.

We would like to start this blog by clearing that up. According to Merriam-Webster, a refugee is “a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.”

At Traveling Stories, we are honored to serve many refugee families at our StoryTent programs. A number of these families have become our dearest friends.

TS has been lucky enough that these refugee families have felt comfortable to share some of their truly courageous stories with us. Such stories serve as proof that these individuals are not just victims, but creators, friends, and members of our community.

One of the inspiring refugee stories that comes from our StoryTent is that of Abdullah and Abulrahma.

Abdullah and Abdulrahma: From Iraq to the StoryTent

(Written by Jade Guthrie and originally published in Traveling Stories StoryTents Kid’s Stories)

Mrs. Aleze and her sons Abdullah and Abdulrahma were among the thousands of refugees who fled Iraq in 2015 to find peace and opportunity in America. When they arrived they spoke no English and had to find a place to live and schools for the boys to attend. They had to figure out complex processes like finding a job, establishing financial credit and obtaining proper health care.

San Diego receives about 3,000 refugees every year, more than any other region in California. A striking majority coming from Iraq. Aid agencies have formed a strong infrastructure to make the transition easier for refugees, but it’s still difficult.

Abdulla and Abdulrahma, 4 and 7 years old, were having a hard time adjusting to their new life in America. Mrs. Aleze shared her concerns with a friend, another mom who had moved to America from Iraq a few years earlier. The mom suggested Mrs. Aleze bring her sons to the Traveling Stories StoryTent at the El Cajon Farmers’ Market.

Mrs. Aleze and her sons have been visiting the StoryTent every week ever since. Still a bit shy to speak English, Mrs. Aleze stopped us one week and expressed how thankful she was for the reading program. She said her sons were very sad to leave their friends and family behind in Iraq. The first time she saw them happy in America was at the StoryTent.

Because of the StoryTent, Abdulrahma is now sounding out words on his own! The prizes that both brothers earn with their book bucks motivate them to continue reading, even when it’s really hard or they feel foolish sounding out the tricky English words.

We’re excited to see which books become their favorites!

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We encourage families to start conversations in their own homes about refugees.

To help start the discussion, we would like to share these to lists of books:

25 Great Books by Refugees in America

  • This list includes the always-lovable Curious George, which was conceived by H. A. Rey and his wife while they were fleeing Nazi Germany in 1940. They fled from Hamburg to Brazil, Brazil to France, and then finally escaped France on homemade bicycles headed for the United States. Joining them along the journey was manuscript with the first mention of George.

Books to Help Kids Understand What It’s Like to be a Refugee

  • This list includes stories like Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey. This tales follows an Iraqi family as they escape from Mosul with their beloved pet Kunkush, traveling by car, by foot, and by boat. Along the way Kunkush escapes his carrier and finds himself in that hands of Amy, a woman volunteering with refugees in Greece. She becomes determined to reunite Kunkush with his family. A true story, this books serves to inspire young readers about what it is like to be a refugee, the unexpected consequences that come with being displaced, and the importance of showing kindness to others.

Traveling Stories would also like to invite anyone that is interested in getting to know the refugees in our own community to come join us and volunteer at one of our StoryTents!

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