Current Issue / DU Alumni

Alumnae help refugees through African Community Center

Chitahka Floore and Jennifer Gueddiche help legal refugees resettle in the U.S. through their work with the African Community Center of Denver.

Imagine arriving home from work to find that the government has seized your home and that your spouse and children have been assaulted by militant troops. For whatever reason—your name, skin color or religious beliefs—you are no longer welcomed in your country. Where would you go? Who would you turn to?

Chitahka Floore, MA international studies ’02, and Jennifer Gueddiche, MA international studies ’98, hear similar stories daily at the African Community Center of Denver (ACC).

Established in 2001, ACC is a nonprofit, community-based organization that is an affiliate of the Ethiopian Community Development Council in Virginia. The center’s educational and social service programs help legal refugees resettle in the United States. Each year, ACC helps resettle more than 100 refugees in the Denver area, offering services like job referrals, housing and language training.

“The sky is the limit for us,” says Gueddiche, who oversees all ACC projects. “We’ve come so far and have generated so much support in just three years.” Gueddiche notes that ACC is in the process of relocating to a larger facility, as it has expanded significantly since its start. Increasing the number of full-time staff members is also on her “to-do” list.

Support comes from donations and volunteers—many of whom are students in DU’s Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS). Peter Van Arsdale, a senior lecturer and research fellow at GSIS, regularly advocates for ACC, and local businesses employ many of the refugees.

Floore recognized the need for refugee resettlement programs like ACC when she lived in Egypt seven years ago. Her encounters with illegal refugees there sparked an interest that eventually ignited her passion for refugee advocacy.

“These people are in need,” says Floore, who oversees ACC fundraising and outreach programs. For most refugees—who have only the clothes on their backs when they arrive in the United States—ACC and programs like it are crucial to their survival.

Ethnic cleansing and other forms of persecution force millions of people from their homelands each year. The U.S. government will allow 70,000 refugees into the country this fiscal year.

When a refugee enters the United States, ACC is allotted $355 per person per month for eight months to cover food, clothing and housing. The ACC staff helps refugees find work so that they can pay for what the allotment won’t cover. The ultimate goal is self sufficiency. But, Gueddiche and Floore note, it’s a challenge to find employment for someone who doesn’t speak English and has never lived in a city.

Gueddiche and Floore find their jobs to be as emotional as they are time-consuming. But, they are committed to ACC and can’t picture doing anything else.

“We witness the trauma and suffering caused by war and intolerance on a daily basis,” Gueddiche remarks. “But at least we get to do something about it.”


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