Each year about 70,000 political, economic and otherwise endangered refugees are legally admitted to the United States. Separated from home and personal history they often possess little more than their names. They step onto an airplane and step off in a foreign world; a world comparatively rich with opportunity, wealth and stability. Immediately, a new chapter of survival begins.
Utah receives 1,000-1,100 refugees each year. Each is unique, but all have fled dire circumstance. In the distinctive cultural and geographic landscape of Utah, refugees are greeted by a caseworker, taken to housing, and immediately submerged in fast-paced society far removed from their homeland. Even the smallest tasks, from turning on a light to experiencing running water in their own homes, can be mystifying. Initially surrounded by well-intentioned hosts and mentors, the refugee is endlessly briefed on a new world. From gadgets Americans take for granted, to being whisked away to apply for social security cards, food stamps, and other benefits of Federal Aid: All in a language they don’t understand.
While Americans—and many in the world—still view our nation as “…lifting our lamp beside the Golden Door” to tempest-tossed humanity…the reality of life beyond that open door for desperate emigrants needs to be understood. The door of welcome leads to an arduous set of stairs. Ascent is difficult and the process of becoming a citizen of the United States is long and daunting. And yet each year hundreds of these once-desperate refugees raise their hands in the oath of citizenship. The humbling journeys and discovery of a new definition of freedom as the heart of Finding Home: Utah’s Refugee Story serve as powerful reminders for each of us of inherent qualities in our American experience.
Career accreditation in their homelands is often unaccepted against our national standards. Language barriers endure. Many of refugees find themselves working low-income jobs, living in poverty, exposed to an elusive American dream on a daily, even hourly basis.
Paige Keiter found her love for film making while a student in Park City High School’s film department. She graduated from the University of Utah with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Film Studies and Mass Communication. Her journalism experiences there gave her an appreciation of the documentary format, as she chronicled the impact people can have on their communities. Paige has traveled and filmed in places such as Costa Rica, Kenya, and all along the Wasatch front. She worked for the National Geographic Channel before finding a home in public television. Her career ambition is to continue to tell the stories of people making a difference in the world, thus making a difference herself.