In 2016 the United Nations released a World Happiness Report ranking countries, not simply by economic indicators of Gross Domestic Product, but by their Gross National Happiness. Burundi was ranked last in this list.

Torn by civil war and political turmoil, young people frequently flee to neighboring countries in search of opportunity. In 2006, the United States accepted 10,000 refugees from Burundi.

During my rotation at Siloam Health, I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas, a young man who was a refugee from Burundi.

Siloam Health

The intake process is thorough and is performed by highly skilled experts. More than just a cursory review of an Overseas Medical Record (OMR), the intake procedure at Siloam Health considers the well-being of the whole person (spirit, mind, and body). Thomas spoke many languages, and was well-spoken in English as well. During the 15 years he spent in a refugee camp in Tanzania, he took classes to advance his education.

His greatest concern at the first refugee intake appointment?

“I’d really like to find something to read!” Thomas shared that he was very interested in Environmental Science, and had read several books on this subject.

During the first few months of life in the US, the experiences of a refugee demand perseverance. They have a very limited time (30 days) to find gainful employment in their brand new country. Many times the only jobs available are physically demanding and require long hours.

Not exactly the easiest way to start life in a new culture. Fortunately for Thomas, he is an eager learner and had already nearly mastered the English language.

Newcomers like Thomas add richly to the most important of American resources, its people.

Is it possible that we have more to learn from the joys, the talents, the sorrows, the perspective, and the determination of those from other countries?