Ethiopian Refugee Who Settled in Des Moines Works to Help Other Refugees

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- "Kids are dying. Children are dying, struggling you know, especially the last two weeks the crisis is really out of hand," said Ethiopian Refugee Sinishaw Iticha while describing the mass exodus of Syrian refugees moving across Europe to escape the violence in their home country.

Iticha and his wife Edatu Hayato have been watching the refugee crisis overseas with a heavy heart. "These people are human beings and they are running away from their country because of the persecution. They want to save their own life. They just want to save their children`s life," said Iticha.

The refugee crisis is a story that hits close to home for Iticha and his wife, because it's their story. They were refugees that fled from Ethiopia. Iticha says he fled from political persecution in 2004. "I decided to run away and flee from the country...in order to save my life," said Iticha.

After being detained twice, Iticha fled to Nairobi, Kenya. That's where he met the woman that he would later marry, who was also in Nairobi; having fled from Ethiopia. In June 2013, the couple came to America and settled in Des Moines.

Despite the challenging transition they went through in moving from one culture to a completely different one, they're now both settled in the Des Moines area, and they are doing well. They're both employed, have a three-month-old baby boy, and they're grateful to America for the opportunities the country has provided them.

Iticha now works for the very organization that helped settle him; Catholic Charities. He says he's paying back what he received; working for his fellow refugees. "Working with donors, with the community. That`s where we get resources like the furniture and different items for the newly arrived refugee families," said Iticha of his efforts to help other refugees.

Due to the dire nature of the situation the refugees overseas are facing, Iticha says it's important that countries give the refugees a chance to survive. "They don`t choose to be a refugee, but the situation is forcing them to leave their own house, to leave their own families behind, so it`s really very important for the countries to open for them their doors and welcome these refugees in," said Iticha.

Catholic Charities in Des Moines resettles 200 people each year from a variety of different countries and backgrounds. Rachel Kinker is the Refugee Resettlement Program Manager at Catholic Charities Diocese of Des Moines and she says it's unclear at this point what role the organization will play in resettling the Syrian refugees.