Former refugee recognized by Salt Lake County leaders for helping dozens of others like him
Aug 31, 2023, 2:01 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — It was a journey Joseph Genda never could have predicted — fleeing his war-torn country of Sierra Leone to eventually wind up half a world away in Utah.
When civil war broke out in 1991, many including Genda’s family fled the violence. By 1994, he found himself in a refugee camp of 30,000 people in Guinea, where he spent over six years and eventually even married.
Another civil war, he said, then broke out in Guinea and he and his wife were repatriated back to Sierra Leone.
“Oh, man, it was a long one,” Genda reflected on his path during an interview with KSL TV. “In my life, I’ve seen people that have been killed.”
He recalled days when survival meant only drinking water for sustenance and one time when he helped to rescue a badly wounded man by carting him in a wheelbarrow to a Red Cross hospital, only to find out he later died.
Eventually, Genda’s journey brought him to Utah in 2007, where he has since earned a college degree and U.S. citizenship and where he has been able to buy a home.
His experiences have only deepened his resolve to help others facing similar circumstances, which he now does as a refugee and new American liaison for Salt Lake County.
“I never thought I could go this far,” Genda acknowledged. “I think each and every one who is determined will be able to do that.”
Genda in the weeks ahead will help to lead as many as 100 immigrants to citizenship.
On Tuesday, Salt Lake County leaders recognized his efforts during a ceremonial meeting officially marking September as American Founders and Constitution Month.
Remarks from Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson focused on Genda’s story.
“Joseph’s journey and his ability to weave himself into the fabric of our country is an inspiration for me, I know for you, for all of us regardless of our backgrounds, our origins and our beliefs,” Wilson said. “I am so happy to honor the constitution that has guided us through our history and to celebrate Joseph and the many others who have a journey — unbelievable to me — to be here, be part of our community, to gain citizenship and to live the American Dream.”
Genda said he is grateful to help others like him achieve their goals and dreams in America and urged others to help support those individual journeys.
“I’m a living witness that here everything is possible,” Genda said. “It depends on how you apply yourself and just focus on the little things that you are supposed to do. I am grateful for those things.”