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Immigration 101: ‘We just need to be a kinder world’

Times Observer photo by Kate Cataldo Paul Jericho, associate director of the Multicultural Community Resource Center of Erie (MCRC).

Paul Jericho visited Warren Public Library Wednesday to speak to the community about the hardship refugees experience when seeking a better life, and why Erie is the perfect place for resettlement.

Jericho, of Erie, is the associate director of the Multicultural Community Resource Center of Erie (MCRC). His mission: “I’m just trying to clarify things. Our job is to help educate people.” He spoke about his job at the center, and the process a refugee goes through when seeking resettlement.

We learned a refugee has to complete a step-by-step process before they can apply for citizenship. This process makes sure the refugees are not a security threat, and at times can cause additional adversity for refugees.

Jericho said he works with the refugees to help them complete the steps and finally apply for citizenship.

Refugees currently make up 18 percent of Erie’s population. Jericho said that middle-sized cities are the best for refugees because everything is in walking distance, and helps refugees adjust to life in the United States. Making Erie a perfect location. Guest speaker and former refugee, Venera Loshaj shared her story on adversity, and the process she went through to get to the United States. She described the war in her country, Kosovo, due to territorial conflict with Serbia. She also shared the living conditions from the beginning of the conflict to the time they were seeking refuge from their southeastern European home.

She shared vivid memories and how her family feared for their lives, captivating the 45 attendees. From having to hide under the bed during shootings to helping raise her five siblings at the age of 11, every moment of her story held the attention of the audience. When speaking about her family’s experience, she said that, “we just wanted a more peaceful life.”

Lashaj has been living in Erie now for over 20 years and assists Jericho to help refugees adjust to their new home. With a master’s in social working she now helps provide the security, peace and new life that she came here looking for. She is able to relate to the new coming immigrants and is able to understand their hardships. She has found a passion in helping others in the same situation she was in all those years ago.

Since his last visit two years ago, Jericho has organized multiple recreational activities for the children in the resettlement center in Erie. One being local hiking adventures where anyone in the community can attend. The community’s efforts to help proves that Jericho’s work is inspiring. He was asked once if he knew he was special.

“I never gave it a thought. We just need to be a kinder world,” said Jericho.

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