Human Stories: Refugees in Their Own Words

By Sharon Samber,

Human Stories: Refugees in Their Own Words

Lee Bycel hopes his book Refugees in America will stir people to action.

(courtesy Lee Bycel)

In 2003, Rabbi Lee Bycel was listening to a radio broadcast about the beginnings of the genocide in Darfur. “Something about it hit me on a very personal level,” Bycel recalled. Rather than just shaking his head, “I thought, ‘Lee, what are you going to do?’”

It turns out that moment 16 years ago, marked a turning point in his life. After many years as a humanitarian and social justice activist, Bycel looked to turn up his involvement. And ever since that moment, Bycel has been on something of a refugee awareness mission. He has visited refugee camps in Darfur, Chad, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Haiti, and has written about refugees for years.

This year, Bycel, 70, has turned to telling the world about refugees by telling their stories. His new book, Refugees in America, allows the unique voices of 11 refugees to tell about their lives and struggles and is Bycel’s way of humanizing terrible events and getting readers to understand and get involved. Bycel said he is very pleased that HIAS provides ways for people to take action; part of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to HIAS.

“We have forgotten the human element,” he said. “Everyone has a story. The refugee story and the human story is about loss.”

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