Vermont Folklife Center - Vision and Voice Documentary Workspace
In Their Own Words - homepage

Board member, volunteer, co-founder

Alex  Sudan

First of all, what I would like to talk about is the life of a refugee. The most important thing, even if you are a refugee or if you are just in a different country—what you need to have is your identity. You don't need to forget your culture. Whatever culture you came from, or whatever background you came from, you should not be ashamed. You have to keep your originality. Physically somebody can change, but mentally you still remember home and where you came from.

Here in the United States you have the opportunity to practice your own culture or own background of where you lived. They aren't taking that away from you, so you have that freedom. As soon as you become a refugee, you don't have to say, "I am a refugee; I am in a foreign land; I have to behave like the others—how they behave." You have to respect other people and their culture. If there is any conflict of interest between them, you have to figure out which one is really better for you, instead of jumping to something you didn't know about, and at the end you come to regret it. Identity is important. You have to keep yourself and your confidence for what you are doing or what you are getting into.

So when people come here they are really stressed. What you went through—for how many years before you come here—it is no surprise. Sometimes you see some people who are not able to talk in front of you because they don't know exactly what is going on—are they talking to the right person; can they help them or not? There is a lot of debate in your own mind just to learn when you should be worried or not.

The thing here is—why people are struggling with each other—it's just a matter of understanding and fear. How can we break those pieces? When you break the ice into pieces, that's the only way you have to have an approach. Don't get scared of someone, talk—talk more. The more you speak out, the more somebody will hear you and you'll get what you need. I think that will help us. A human being is a human being. We are the same—what differs for us is only the culture. Our mentality, our intelligence, is the same.

For instance, when you have somebody new into your community, you don't know that person. The first thing you can do is bring that person closer to you. For example, if somebody knocks at your door, you don't ignore it, you go and open it and see what that person wants. Maybe they need help; maybe they came to the wrong address or something like that. You have to get some information on what they need. So that's the same thing with the refugees. They don't know anybody here; they are just knocking at the door of everybody in Vermont—they are knocking at their doors. Then if you open your door, it means that you open for them. But, when you open the door it means you have to go see what they need. Maybe somebody needs help; maybe they don't need help—they will let you know. Then from there, that is how the friendship starts. For example, if you want to learn about me—how will you learn? You have to come closer. At least there has to be something—a goal to bring us together, to motivate us to.

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