For Refik Sadikovic, the journey getting to Boise was anything but a pleasant stroll through the park.
Sadikovic was first a citizen of Bosnia. After being wounded in war, battling starvation and moving between refugee camps for several months, he finally made his way across the border and into Austria. Eventually Sadikovic made it to the United States and Boise in 2000.
Like many refugees who come to Boise, Sadikovic hardly spoke English.
“It was hard for me,” Sadikovic said. “I couldn’t speak English. I didn’t have time to really learn and I was too old to go to high school.”
According to the Idaho Office for Refugees, approximately 686 refugees and immigrants arrived in Boise from 20 different countries in 2012 alone. The majority of these refugees come from South Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia and Africa.
By the time refugees—a large majority of which are women and children—make their way to the United States and eventually to Idaho, they’ve been stripped of all they know.
Once in Idaho, their fight isn’t over. Every refugee carries a personal story of persecution, escape and survival.
To help these individuals adapt to their new way of life, many organizations are in place around Boise such as Boise State Refugee Alliance, co-created by Sadikovic and his wife to help refugees enroll in school.
“It’s important to encourage refugees to pursue higher education,” Sadikovic said. “If we don’t, I’m sure they won’t do very well.”
For many who come to Boise as refugees, the transition can be difficult. False expectations, trouble learning English and a lack of knowledge about the opportunities available can make this process more difficult.
“They (refugees) would like to go to school and get educated,” Sadikovic said. “The opportunity may be there but they don’t know about it.”
Sadikovic explained that after a year in the United States most refugees will have full citizenship. At this point enrolling in school is an easy process unless the individual has lost their documentation.
After 13 years in the United States Sadikovic considers himself successful, something he never thought he could be after all he’s gone through.
“I know it’s not easy. Because of my experience I know how to help,” Sadikovic said.
In an effort to help students and others get involved, Boise State currently maintains a website with a list of interpreters. If someone wishes to volunteer interpreting services, they can do so at boiseinterpreters.com.
More information can be found idahorefugees.org.