A new documentary featuring the Queen City showcases a refugee family that was placed here after escaping a corrupt government in Burma, and the troubles they faced once they got to Buffalo. The Bermese government tortures and kills many ethnic minorities, and they are forced to move into refugee camps. Smiler Greely and his family came to America after 20 years in a refugee camp in Thailand. Nickel City Smiler is a documentary featuring Buffalo and the Greely family, and tells of their troubles trying to get by living in the city. The creators of the film are trying to raise awareness about the everyday struggles of refugees in Buffalo.
I spoke to Scott Murchie, who co- directed the film. He said that raising awareness about the refugees is very important all over Western New York, and even across America.
“We want to grow some sort of support network for these people,” said Murchie.
Currently there are thousands of refugees in the Buffalo area. According to the film, the refugees are taken care of through their resettlement agency for a six month period, and then they are on their own. Many of them can not settle into American life that quickly, and have trouble finding jobs, transportation, and learning our language. For refugees settled on the West side, they are faced with frequent crime on their streets. Two families featured in the film were placed together in a small apartment, and did not speak the same language. One woman did not know how to get help for her sick husband.
The main family featured in the documentary is headed by Smiler Greely, a bilingual refugee who works for the Refugee School Impact Program, assisting refugees adapt to life in America. He and his family were selected for resettlement in 2007, and now live in the city’s West side. Assisting him is Donna Pepero, a former school teacher born and raised in Buffalo. She now is the head of the Refugee School Impact Program, and she and a staff of bilingual refugees work with over 3000 refugee children a year.
Murchie hopes that after viewing this film people will want to get involved, not just by donating money or food, but by mentoring a refugee. The refugees do not want a handout, but rather to be shown how to function in American society so they can succeed and provide for their family.
Here is a link to the film’s website.
More to come on the film, and the refugee situation in Buffalo.
Photo: NCS website