Refugee resettlement could bring new opportunities to Niagara Falls

Posted at 1:47 PM, Nov 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-28 18:38:05-05

The word "Karibu", printed in big letters at the front of Rubens Mukunzi's newspaper. It's a word that means "welcome" in one of Mukunzi's languages, Swahili.

"I think in this country I'm more safe, and I'm feeling more comfortable in this country," said Mukunzi.

A country Mukunzi wasn't born in, but now calls home. And now, it's that word, "karibu", he hopes every refugee hears when they move to the United States. A reason why he named his newspaper business, Karibu News.

"I fled my country," said Mukunzi. "Today I'm living in Buffalo as a refugee."

Mukunzi left Rwanda and settled in Buffalo in 2013, in hopes of having more freedom of speech. Now, he works two jobs, and speaks five languages.

"When I found out that I could, I said 'why not? Let me try!'" said Mukunzi.

It's refugees like him, who influenced the Jewish Family Service of Buffalo to bring refugees to Niagara Falls, starting in 2017.

"It's made a difference, it's bringing back Buffalo and Erie County in a big way, and making us more noticeable to the rest of the world," said Marlene Schillinger, President and CEO of Jewish Family Service.

It's made such a difference in Buffalo, that Schillinger says this will not only help Niagara Falls, refugees will also benefit greatly from the transition.

"There's real opportunity with housing, with schools, and especially with economic development," said Schillinger. "That's what Niagara Falls has been trying to do for years."

Mukunzi thinks will be positive. He says it could bring new opportunities to refugees who need work, and a place to live.

"Resettling refugees and immigrants in Buffalo was really positive," said Mukunzi. "And I do think that refugees and immigrants, they work hard to be successful themselves. I think it's a good thing to resettle refugees in Niagara Falls."

He adds that refugees should usually look to resettle in smaller cities, like Niagara Falls, to make the transition easier.

"I think for refugees, they do have chances there because they have a new place to live, and a lot of opportunity," said Mukunzi. "I think they shouldn't go to big cities."