1. What is Refuge Coffee, and why does it exist?
Jessica Darnell, director of community engagement and relations: Refuge Coffee is not just a coffee truck or community to hang around. It’s a way to welcome people to America and to aid them in skills that lead to better opportunities for prosperous futures. Refuge Coffee exists to take care of those who have had to go through so much to get to America. Many refugees just want a safe place to stay where they can earn a living and enjoy life. We can help them do that!
Caleb Goodrum, director of operations: When you come to a new country it’s a huge shock. You are in this space where it is hard to plan ahead and give yourself a future in many ways. That’s the neat thing about Refuge Coffee. You aren’t just working a job with a fair wage, but there is a job training class—a time where you can slow down and step back and think about the future. Our goal at Refuge is that after a year you would have a plan and consciously spent time to work that out.
2. Do you drink coffee?
Miriam Halaby*, employee: Yes, I drink coffee. I am from Casablanca, and when I came to the States, I was missing it. Then, I started working at Refuge Coffee. I can now make coffee that has a Casablanca twist to it. Would you like to try one?
Caleb Goodrum, director of operations: I enjoy drinking coffee and running the business but the most enjoyable and intimate part of working here is getting to know the staff and just being in this community.
Kitti Murray, owner and founder of Refuge Coffee: I love coffee. I’ve always loved it and known what I like about it. But running a coffee truck has been more than just being coffee obsessed. I had to learn a lot. I still don’t know as much as everybody who works here knows.
3. What do you wish people knew about immigrants and refugees?
Jessica Darnell, director of community engagement and relations: I wish people would perhaps acknowledge that refugees and immigrants are people, too. Most have the same hopes and dreams Americans do; they’re just from a different country.
Caleb Goodrum, director of operations: I think refugees and immigrants have a lot to add—a diversity of opinion, culture and experience that is almost always going to make the fabric of whatever culture it is injected into stronger. To me, it seems like a huge win. This has been a time where people are reexamining the idea of white privilege and better understanding groups that are marginalized. It has been fun to see people grow and be able to introduce refugees and immigrants to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to be around a Syrian dude.
Miriam Halaby*, employee: I am so grateful to have come to America and to have found acceptance here. In my country, there wasn’t much I could do. When my husband and I were able to come to America, I found I could learn English, get a job and meet new people. I love it. I want people to know that our lives here are better and we are so grateful for the opportunity.
4. How can people help refugees and internationals?
Jessica Darnell, director of community engagement and relations: There are so many ways people can help. I think the best and easiest way is to just treat refugees and internationals with kindness and care. Treat them like you’d want to be treated.
Miriam Halaby*, employee: Come talk to us!
Kitti Murray, owner and founder of Refuge Coffee: Refugees are human beings who are intelligent and heroic. They have been through something that shapes them in a way that none of us understand. I’ve been surprised at how many people think refugees are illegal aliens, and that’s not the truth. In any part of the country there are people in need. So, we have to find ways to meet those needs. Either open up your home or, if you’re not comfortable doing that, then find a way to reach them in their homes.