It’s hard enough to resettle in a new country as a refugee, but imagine moving from a warm climate to the frigid northeastern United States.
That happens to people from places like like Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bhutan and Myanmar, who suddenly find themselves in snowy states like Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
“It’s always quite a shock for them,” says Beth Seremet from Ascentria Care Alliance, a faith-based organization that works with such refugees and helps them prepare for cold weather.
Seremet works with refugees resettling in New Hampshire. “Whether they come in July or January, every individual [gets] a winter coat, a hat, a pair of gloves and a scarf waiting for them in their apartment," she says.
And then comes the real shock: "They are told what [the clothes are] for. In July, they look at us like we’re crazy," Seremet says. "In January, we’re their best friends.”
Seremet’s organization works with the Red Cross to provide cold weather orientation: "a real hands-on, intensive winter weather acclimation. And they will send each participant with a safety kit to go home with.”
New refugees often also get tips from those who have been through their first Northeast winter.
“The [refugees] who’ve come in previous years are telling [new arrivals] all these snow stories about sledding and skating," Seremet says, "but they have no idea what’s coming for them."