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Pre-Departure Reflections: A Look at the Years Behind


                                  
RESPECT Intellectual Club, Meeting before I left Ghana

Time went bye so fast. I can still remember when I first landed on JFK International Airport in New York City on December 12 2006 before boarding a connection flight to Providence, Rhode Island where I was met by my mother and two staff members of the Lutheran Immigrants and Refugee Services (LIRS). LIRS was the resettlement agency that assisted my mother in processing my travel to the US from Ghana. I can still remember when I saw my mother after 14 years of separation how being reunited with someone you love so dearly can be. I still remember walking down the streets of the City of Worcester visiting the offices of Social Security Administration, Department of Transitional Assistant, Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles and other state and local agencies trying to find my way through these system. I still remember it was during the winter, falling as I walked to those offices. I remembered after a about 3 weeks I received my employment authorization card from the Department of Homeland Security followed by my SSN and card as well as my State ID. These processes took lots of thinking and frustrations most especially when you are not familiar with the system. However, as it went I was able to receive my documents and started to looking for job.


It was a difficult process most especially coming to the US during the winter after years living in a tropical climate like that of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It was really hard for me to get use to the winter and to be sincere and frank with you it is still hard for me to this day. I like the winter, but not when the temperatures are in the single digits or below zero. It becomes really challenging and difficult for me. I usually suffer enter frequent headaches and bloody nose during most of the coldest periods of the winter. However, it's a good experience.


I still remembered getting my first job as instructional assistant at the Worcester Public Schools. Its turns out that my teaching experience in Ghana is going to be very instrumental in my new life in the US. I started working as a teacher assistant on February 2, 2007; that is, I started working just about two months in the US. That was a good thing. I received assistance both financial and food stamps from the department of transitional assistants (DTA) for about 6 months when I first arrived in Worcester. These assistance were cancelled in the 7th month stay in the US on grounds that I was making enough money from my current job as a teacher assistant and I was no longer qualified for such assistance. It made really good sense. I wasn't moved and I never wanted to keep receiving these aids anyways. I wanted to make new life as independent as possible and also help others as much as I can be helped by others.


Overall, I was able to understand the system so quickly that within the first 7 months in the US I applied to become a permanent resident and within those 7 months I received my Green Card. It was such an amazing experience to be able to navigate through the system with no assistance from my resettlement agency or anyone else for that matter. I process my application and submitted the appropriate documentations needed and within just 7 months I got my status changed to Permanent Residence. It was such an experience. One I never ever thought I could have done all by myself. It was also educational and it made me to generate the needed skills to also help my mother and niece and other refugees with their paperwork. This may sound as easy as you think, but these processes requires lots of time, patience, endurance and commitment on your part. If you want something go for it. Just don't do anything out of the usual that will risk your chances in the process. Live and obey the laws and all will be okay with you.


I could write an entire full blog with just every little information about my experiences thus far, but I will just like to summarize. I just want to say that it has been an interesting 4+ years for me. A lot has been done and these were only possible because of the good people of this City (Worcester). Within the 8th month of my arrival I started taking classes at Worcester State University where I graduated from 2010 with a degree in Sociology and Geography. I worked with several local organizations and agencies in different areas of specializations. I volunteered in assist newly arrive refugees integrate within the City of Worcester and also volunteer as a mentor for the community-based organization that seeks to assist refugee students within the Worcester Public School systems bridge the gaps in their educational experience. I am currently pursuing a Master degree in International Development and Social Change at Clark University where I am also currently working as a Graduate Student Career Research Assistant a position that I started in April 2011. 


At Clark University, I was able to receive funding from the Compton Foundation to conduct a research in Ghana. The post on this blog will not be related to my study, but it will only reflect my personal experiences at the refugee camp where I once lived for 11 years and my experience and travel in Ghana generally. Please visit this blog as frequent as you can, because I will keep posting information here as I go through.

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