First First Coast Thanksgiving for refugee families | News

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First First Coast Thanksgiving for refugee families

JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- Refugee families from six different countries are starting a new life in the U.S. and experiencing their first Thanksgiving meal.

"We expect to have a better life, freedom, and better opportunities," said David Rojas, a refugee from Venezeula.

Rojas and his family have been in the U.S. for five days and thanks to the Refugee Resettlement program through Catholic Charities, they get to begin a new life.

"They're political refugees or they've been discriminated or persecuted throughout the world," said Michelle Karolak, Director of the Refugee Resettlement Program of Catholic Charities, as she describes all the families present at Tuesday's Thanksgiving luncheon at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

"Why did you come to this country?" First Coast News' Michelle Quesada asked refugee Caridad Arencivia from Cuba in Spanish.

"We came to this country first of all in search of freedom, in search of a future, to work, to struggle, to move forward, to do everything we couldn't in Cuba," said Arencivia in Spanish.

Her son Junior is a teenager and is now in high school and learning English; he said he feels good being in the U.S.

Catholic Charities legally brings these families into the U.S. and provides housing and help to get them resettled. One refugee who arrived from Cuba two years ago is now a volunteer and said she wants to give back.

"I know how the life is in Cuba and I feel happy when I know somebody can get here because they are going to be alive, they are going to feel alive," said Mareyls Hondares, a volunteer with Catholic Charities who arrived from Cuba two years ago.

And although these families all speak different languages, now they all know how to say "Thank you."


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