My name is Devon Cone and I am a Protection Officer for RefugePoint. The first time I can remember meeting a refugee I was probably no more than ten years old. My dad introduced me to a man who was living in the basement of our friend’s home. He told me he was from Georgia to which I responded “but you don’t have a southern accent”?
As I got to know this man better, I learned that he was not from the land of peaches and moderate temperatures, but rather from a country that was experiencing inter-ethnic violence as a newly independent state. He left his family, career, friends and homeland to find safety in the United States. This man was a refugee. When my inquisitive ten-year old self asked him more about his life, he explained that he had been a neurosurgeon in his country and was now bagging groceries at the local super market. He was lonely without his wife and children and it was a difficult transition, but he was grateful to be safe and try to begin a new life.
I have thought about this man often over the years. When people ask me what got me interested in working with refugees, I think of him. I think of how I felt when I listened to him. I have worked with populations struggling with poverty, disaster and disease, but have always been drawn to the issues that face refugees. They often face many of the same problems as other struggling people, but do so in a unique legal environment where often they do not have the protection or assistance of a government.
I began working with RefugePoint in 2008, during which time they sent me to the largest refugee camp in the world. I was interviewing refugees with life threatening medical conditions and trying to connect them with places where they could receive treatment. I returned to this camp in 2009 and continued this project. I am now working in RefugePoint’s regional hub in Nairobi. Here, I work on identifying some of the most vulnerable urban refugees and try to assist them in finding solutions to their problems. I will regularly share some of my experiences, thoughts and the work that RefugePoint is engaged in here.