Boston Center for Refugee Health
&  Human Rights Newsletter
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We provide holistic health care coordinated with social services and legal aid for asylum seekers, refugees, torture survivors and their families.


We also train professionals to serve this population, conduct research to understand and implement best-practices, and promote health and human rights, locally and globally, to improve the quality of life for torture survivors and their communities.


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TopNovember 2012

In this season of Thanksgiving, we give thanks to you for your support and encouragement throughout the year!  We often hear from our clients about the difference our work has made in their lives.  In this issue, an asylum seeker from Uganda shares his experiences since coming to the U.S.   

Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights is a "Home away from Home" for former Ugandan Student Leader

When you look into Dave's (not his real name) friendly, open face, you wouldn't think of him as a man "living in the shadows." Yet that's how he describes his state when he first arrived in the United States a few years ago.  A graduate from a university in Uganda, Dave was continuing his education and working as an intern at a Ugandan human rights organization when his work as a student leader and activist brought him into conflict with local authorities. Dave doesn't like to speak about this chapter in his life.  Uganda has come a long way since the dictatorship of Idi Amin, but incidents of government repression are not uncommon.  Dave was subject to extreme intimidation and under surveillance because of his work for human rights in his country. He feared for his safety and fled to the United States.   

"The Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights helps heal any forms of past trauma and the stress of being in a new country."
At first he stayed with acquaintances. He was afraid to return to Uganda and did not know who to trust or where to seek help in this new country.  He spent many hours doing research at the local library, looking for resources to help him. Having been raised in a family with strong Christian values, his instincts led him to seek community in the church.  He googled "best church in Boston" and came upon the name of a church in Cambridge.  It was, he believes, a providential find.  

"People were very welcoming," Dave recalls.  He felt kinship with the large number of students who attended the church. "I found friends who were willing to listen to me and help me," he said.  The church community helped Dave find a place to live and referred him to the PAIR Project, a Boston-based organization which provides legal aid to immigrants. One woman in the church was a volunteer at the Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights, and she recommended that Dave pay the center a visit.  He visited the center regularly for two years, where he received counseling and emotional support.  The center helped Dave find a one-year volunteer intern position at a university center that studies human rights policy, where he gained a global perspective on human rights advocacy.  In addition to working two jobs, Dave  volunteered his time to participate in the BCRHHR's Community Advisory Board, where he felt a sense of kinship with other immigrants as they work together to further the Center's goals of helping new immigrants. He also attended the Center's Hope meetings, a group that comes together every two weeks to reflect on the role that hope plays in strengthening them in their daily lives.   

Sketch of hand forming peace sign.

Dave finds that drawing images such as this sketch of a peace sign helps him to feel more hopeful about the future.


Center helps heal any forms of past trauma and the stress of being in a new country," Dave explained.  "For immigrants, especially those who have a human rights past, this is a place where they find comfort, a family, a home away from home. There is joy here, and it is open to those who seek a future in America."  

Dave is building on his experience to continue promoting human rights globally.  This summer he participated in a program to train young leaders to work towards improving human rights around the globe. His long-term goal is to go back to school and eventually to practice law. In September, he headed to the western U.S. where he is now studying law on a partial scholarship.

Yet Dave continues to feel close ties to Boston. Last February he watched the Super Bowl with a group of his friends and told me he was disappointed at the Patriot's loss.  I expressed surprise at this, since one of the Giant's players, Mathias Kiwanuka, is of Ugandan origin-he is the grandson of Benedicto Kiwanuka, the first prime minister of Uganda, who was assassinated in 1972.  "I am deeply inspired by Kiwanuka, and I'm happy for him," Dave replied,  "But I root for the Patriots. Boston is my home."

Submitted by Edi Ablavsky, volunteer at BCRHHR 
The Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights