Refugee Students Help Those in Need This Holiday Season

22 December, 2017

The American state of North Dakota is one of the leading destinations for refugees coming to the United States. Each year, about 400 refugees arrive in larger cities like Fargo. Their new lives in North Dakota are not easy.

But some refugees themselves are working this holiday season to make life easier for others.

Sixteen-year-old Puja Chetri and 18-year-old Maria Tuya are among the students who developed the K.I.D.S. Food Pantry. It provides food to the poor. The students began the project with help from the Great Plains Food Bank.

Chetri fled Nepal with her family when she was 10 years old. Tuya is a refugee from South Sudan. Both know what it is like to want for food.

Chetri: "Sometime(s) we don't have that much to eat; usually there's like a box of cereal."

Tuya: "It's definitely sometimes a struggle. When I open the fridge, there is not much I can pick from."

But there are many foods to pick from at the Great Plains Food Bank.

Chetri is almost crying as she describes the rewards she gets from helping to feed those in need.

"When they are coming through the door and going out, they are so delightful. There is so much gratefulness in their facial expression. Just know that expression, just know that they are getting more hope each day when we are handing this food out."

And the community service is needed. Almost 15 percent of the city's people live in poverty.

The organization Legacy Children's Foundation made the food project possible. The Legacy Children's Foundation provides support in reading, math and other subjects and offers additional services to help students complete high school. It also teaches students the importance of community service.

Executive Director Mary Jean Dehne says many refugee students, especially, need help to stay in school.

"They really are challenged with feeling like they are fitting in. They look different, they talk different, they have a different dialect; they don't always understand what the teacher wants so there are lots of questions."

Puja Chetri knows this painful feeling well.

"When you see people in your grade level, and you're not there, and you are so far behind, and you are taken out of class regularly, it just hurts."

Chetri and Tuya are among Legacy's success stories. Both students are grateful.

"Honestly, if this program didn't exist, I wouldn't be here. I don't know what I'd be doing."

Tuya will graduate from high school later this year.

"Not only has it helped me with school and education, it has also helped me with leadership skills and confidence."

The two say they wanted to help others because of the help Legacy provided them.

"When someone is helping you do better, you just want to give back and make someone else's life get better. Just a small kindness can go a long way."

The students' community service is not just at the food bank. They also take food and blankets to local homeless shelters.

The girls, and students like them, are bringing some holiday warmth to Fargo's very cold winter nights.

I'm Alice Bryant.

Kane Farabaugh reported this story for VOA News. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

pantry – n. a small room in a house in which food is stored

destination – n. a place to which a person is going or something is being sent

cereal – n. a breakfast food made from grain

fridge n. refrigerator

grateful adj. feeling or showing thanks

dialectn. a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations

regularly adv. very often

blanket – n. a cloth covering that is used especially on a bed to keep you warm