Some came alone. Some escaped with their families. All dreamed of living in peace.

See Their Stories

See Their Stories

One hundred years ago, people of strong faith, love and compassion founded our organization to help individuals and families struggling with life’s most challenging issues. Today, we share the stories of the individuals who came to us through our refugee resettlement program… stories of great loss and great hope.

Refugees Face Challenges Most of Us Could Never Imagine

Catholic Charities Family and Community Services (CCFCS) launched the first “See Their Stories” campaign in 2017 to bring clarity to the mistrust and misunderstanding of refugees from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. A 15- and 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) showed who refugees really are as people and a series of video vignettes made real their troubling, inspiring and at-times beautiful journeys.

In 2023 we added more vignettes and created new PSAs featuring refugees who had fled the war in Ukraine to find peace and safety for themselves and their families. Each of their stories makes it clear what it means to be forced out of the home you love and how we all can help others feel safe and welcome in our community.

All of these real human stories of welcoming and integration of refugees bring clarity to this very important issue in our country, and in our world, and highlight our dedication to helping others discover peace, safety, and friendship.

Yuliia, a former refugee from Ukraine

Yuliia awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of sirens. While her son slept the alarms kept sounding outside, and she realized she had missed many messages from her husband who was away on business. Once the family was united, they knew they would have to leave their home and Ukraine to keep their son safe. As part of the US government’s “Uniting for Ukraine” effort they were able to come to Rochester, NY where they already had friends. Here they’ve found peace and a community that is “kind and openhearted. I am comfortable here in the US.”

Valentina, a former refugee from Ukraine

Valentina lost two places she called home when she left Ukraine—the village where she was born and raised and the city where she went to university, met her husband, and got married. These are the places that have her heart, but “Ukraine is not a safe place to live right now.” Valentina and her family left the first day of the war in February 2022, and she believes she may be one of the first families to come to Rochester under the US Uniting for Ukraine program. At Catholic Charities Family and Community Services Valentina and her husband were able to get set up for life in Rochester including their son learning English and them finding jobs . In fact, Valentina has already gotten a promotion. “I am strong, I have faith, and I believe in the future.”

Alina and Andrii, a former refugee from Ukraine

On February 24, 2022, Alina and Andrii woke up to bombs outside their house. Their daughter was screaming as the explosions kept lighting up the night like daytime. They were of course nervous and anxious but knew they had to protect their daughter. They left in the middle of the night with nothing but one suitcase and started driving to Berlin to find safety. After 9 months they came to Rochester, NY to join friends. On their first day in Rochester, they found caring support at Catholic Charities Family and Community Services, and on the second day they opened accounts at the Ukrainian Federal Credit Union where the people and language made them feel very much at home. Now their daughter is happy at school, and they are both studying at MCC. “I appreciate everyone who has supported me and my family,” says Andrii.

Obaida, a former refugee from Afghanistan

Escaping as a girl with her mother and siblings from Afghanistan, Obaida shares her journey to resettle in the US. It took 3 weeks to dodge bombings and cross the border, and after 12 years in a refugee camp in Pakistan, during which time half of the children in the camp died, Obaida found life and happiness in the USA as she learned English and graduated early to attend college and become a social worker. Now a wife and a mother, Obaida gives back to the current refugees as they seek peace and the opportunity to resettle here in the US. "I am blessed"

Tek, from Bhutan

Growing up on a very successful farm with his family, Tek shares the story of his family fleeing ethnic cleansing in Bhutan. After 18 years in a refugee camp without electricity or roofing, Tek came to Upstate NY with $20. Now a case manager and social worker, with a wife and children of his own, Tek works hard to support his extended family so they can thrive. "I can very proudly say that I think my family is now in good shape....Please consider them...accept your brothers and sisters."

Sadika, from Kuwait

Sadika shares her story as a stateless/Bedouin woman forced from Kuwait, leaving her children behind. After living her whole life without a country and without rights, Sadika has a dream to be free and to become a citizen of the US...and a doctor.

Samir, a translator from Iraq

From his days as an ESL teacher in Iraq, Samir tells his story of serving the US forces during Iraqi Freedom. He and his family became targets of Iraqi persecution, and they applied for a special visa. After the US vetting process, they were approved to come to NY with their two children. 3 years later, Samir is a businessman, and his wife is finishing college to become a teacher. They have bought their first home, and are proudly paying their taxes. They believe in giving back to others and helping to build community. "It was either take this risk, or stay there and die."

Fatuma, a young lady from Somalia

Sent from her mother to escape genocide in Somalia, Fatuma tells of her 15 year stay in a refugee camp with her sister. While her sister died in that camp, Fatuma came to the US with a dream to speak beautiful English, become a business lady and reunite one day with her mother.

Akil, a student from Iraq

From his days as a student in an Iraqi university, Akil shares his journey to resettle in Rochester, NY, including his imprisonment and torture, the murder of his fiance, and his escape to Syria before coming to the US 4 years later. "I knew 3 words: 'Yes, No and I love you.'"

Abdullah, from Afghanistan

For 11 years, Abdullah witnessed daily bombings, attacks on people, and children not being safe to go to school. After being beaten in the street for wearing an American company badge, and seeing no future for himself and his family, he applied for refugee status and has come to America. He feels deeply grateful that his family is now safe, and his children can go to school.