Rochester, N.Y— When you aren’t far removed from hardship, it’s not hard to give thanks. Refugees know this better than most.
On Tuesday, about a hundred refugees from all over the world gathered at Mary’s Place on Lexington Avenue to receive free Thanksgiving food to cook at home.
Many refugees expressed thanks, not only for the food, but also for their chance at a better life.
“In our county, we have a lot of problems,” says Lwee Zal, a refugee from Burma.
Since she moved to the United States three years ago, she says thanks and prays everyday.
“We pray about God and say thanks for giving our family food and health.”
According to Mary’s Place, the United Nations sends about 80,000 refugees to the United States each year. Of those refugees, about 700 end up in Rochester. Many escape war, persecution and death for a chance at a better life in the U.S.
“This is their new country,” says Kathy LaBue, executive director of Mary’s Place. “The refugees, they embrace it and they are just thrilled to be here. They are primarily thankful for the opportunity to educate their children.”
LaBue says many of the refugees in Rochester are from Bhutan, Burma or from areas around the Congo.
This Thanksgiving, some of the refugees are trying turkey for the first time.
“We are giving them food for their Thanksgiving dinners,” says LaBue. “We don't try to cook it because we serve several different cultures and and we're not sure how they are going to cook it. Some will make soup. Some will cook it in their own way and add their own spices.”
It’s another way they embrace their new American life.
“I'm thankful that everyone is happy,” says Akon Awuok, an 8-year-old refugee from Sudan. “There is nothing to worry about. It is much safer here than how it was the world.”
Mary’s Place was founded in 2009 and serves refugees from all religions and ethnicities.