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CoastLine: Refugees in Southeastern North Carolina

Summer Saunders
Interfaith Refugee Ministry - Wilmington
"I think people should help refugees because they need our help. If you were scared and had to leave your home and move to a new country, you'd want someone to help you too. It would be scary, I think."

Since October 2015, 71 people have arrived in Wilmington as refugees -- most of them from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Another 20% are from Colombia, and half a dozen have fled Burma.  Over the previous fiscal year (October - September), nearly 100 people resettled in the Wilmington area.  Most of that group came from Burma; about a quarter arrived from Colombia. 

The United States, according to a new poll by Amnesty International and reported by the BBC, ranks ninth in terms of how open its citizens are to helping those fleeing war and persecution.   The U.S. comes in right behind Jordan.  The most-welcoming countries are China, Germany, and the UK – in that order.   The least-welcoming:  Russia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

How does the growing refugee population around the world affect southeastern North Carolina?  And what is it like to be one of those people?  Most Americans will never know what it means to leave behind one’s homeland, learn a new language, new customs, find ways to connect with new people… quite literally create a completely new life.


Sara Pascal, sub-office coordinator for Interfaith Refugee Ministry, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping people from other countries settle into life in southeastern North Carolina

Tun Tun, Case Manager for Interfaith Refugee Ministry and former Burmese refugee.  Tun Tun spent 23 years in a refugee camp in Thailand after fleeing the political unrest in Burma.

For more information on Interfaith Refugee Ministry, including how to volunteer, contact Sara Pascal at spascal@helpingrefugees.org or (910) 264-7244.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.