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BYU Student Gives Voice To Refugees, One Story At A Time

PROVO, Utah — A student at Brigham Young University is bringing powerful stories about refugees to campus, using past experiences and language skills in hopes of forging new bonds.

“My mother often likes to say that we bond on our broken edges,” Dalton Bradford said.

Bradford, who is fluent in Arabic, is telling stories after starting the first BYU chapter of Their Story is Our Story, a nonprofit that bridges cultural gaps between refugees and citizens. They share first-hand accounts of refugees online and at gatherings.

“It’s not asking people to give their money, but more to give of their time, to at the very least read this story,” Bradford said.

The group gives voice to people like Sahar, who was forced to flee her Islamic country; Shakila, a mother of five from Afghanistan; and Dumdi Baribe, from Nigeria.

“I think it’s important for them to be able to share their stories so that we can see that, ‘hey, they are human, and they have families,’” Baribe said. Militants stormed her home when she was six years old.

“There was like gunshots and my family ran out towards the back of the house,” said Baribe, who was stuck inside. “I was a tiny girl, so I was just like, huddled in a corner. A voice told me to stay quiet.”

She and her family came here when she was eight years old. Now, as a student at UVU, she remembers how alone she felt.

“It was hard finding a place to fit,” she said.

That sense of not belonging and feeling of loss is something Bradford can relate to.

“It’s hard moving from place to place,” he said, adding that he grew up all over the world. “Just being kind of thrown in and learning the language.”

His mom helped start the nonprofit and took him to visit a refugee camp.

“I knew I had to do something,” he said. He translates interviews with refugees from Arabic to English. “You get into a rhythm.”

Through shared experiences of loss and grief, Bradford said we connect. It’s something he learned firsthand.

“It’ll be 13 years this next July,” he said. “I lost an older brother when I was about 10 years old to a drowning accident.”

He was saving a friend while he was at BYU-Idaho. Though they experienced loss under very different circumstances, grief here is just as painful as it is in other countries.

“Realizing that life is so fragile and that this kind of thing can happen to me,” Bradford said. Uniting people, reminding us that their story is our story.

If you’d like more information about Their Story is Our Story, visit tsosrefugees.org.

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