Refugees fleeing war and persecution call metro Atlanta home - CBS46 News

Refugees fleeing war and persecution call metro Atlanta home

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DECATUR, GA (CBS46) -

Every day there are people around the world fleeing their home country from war or persecution. If they stayed, they would likely be killed.

A small minority of refugees, less than 1 percent, are invited to live in the United States. Georgia and more pointedly, DeKalb County, is one of the top places where they resettle.

CBS Atlanta's Jennifer Mayerle learned about a non-profit helping families restart their lives, and met a family who left everything behind.

Vincent Hakizimana teaches his daughter to count in English from the comfort of his Decatur apartment.

"One, two, three, four," Hakizimana said.

It's a far cry from where he and his family were a little more than a year ago. They survived, but barely.

"There was the worst fear you could know in your life," said Hakizimana.

Hakizimana lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. It's country where war rages on and where sexual violence is rampant.

"Every time, you are scared to be killed because of your tribe or your language without reason. You can't know who can kill you and when," Hakizimana said.

His wife Denyse was attacked in front of him. Hakizimana was then beaten and left for dead.

"When I recovered, I decided to leave the country," Hakizimana said.

They fled with their children to nearby Gambia and lived in a refugee camp. There wasn't much of a chance for a quality life. Still, Hakizimana planted tomatoes, trying to continue to be a businessman.

Life was hard. A picture of Hakizimana and his wife kissing was taken during the toughest time. He said love helped them hold on for a better life. That life came when the U.S. State Department granted the family resettlement in DeKalb County.

"Is this the first time you felt freedom?" Mayerle said.

"Yes. In my country, I was not free," Hakizimana said.

The International Rescue Committee in Atlanta helps resettle about 2,500 refugees escaping religious persecution or war each year. The IRC helps them learn the American way, and assists them with housing and finding jobs.

"It's public policy to provide this humanitarian aid to them. They come and are able to start again," Executive Director Ellen Beattie said.

Metro Atlanta has one of the highest concentrations of refugees in the country. The area offers them the opportunity to thrive with a formula for success: job opportunities, public transportation, affordable living and access to markets and religious institutions. Most of the refugees live in DeKalb County.

"They've saved their own lives in many ways and sought to protect their family. We have a lot to offer," said Beattie.

Hakizimana earned his GED and is proud to provide for his family by working in a poultry factory. He has aspirations of truly knowing the American dream.

"This is the best country, even if sometimes it's hard. You have to be a hard worker. Our life was in trouble, we have been given hope for life," Hakizimana said.

Hakizimana hopes to become a commercial truck driver, and someday become a businessman once again.

Tuesday night at six, meet a family who fled Afghanistan and the success and dreams they've achieved since moving to Georgia.

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