News & Events

“Never Say Never” – A Refugee Story by Ruth Koha James

My name is Ruth Koha James, and I am the Membership Coordinator at MIRA Coalition. I have been working at MIRA Coalition for exactly 4 months and 1 day. Before joining as an employee, I volunteered with MIRA’s Citizenship Clinics, where I assisted applicants in filling out their N-400 applications for naturalization.

During my interview with the MIRA leadership team for the membership coordinator position a few months ago, I was asked “Why should we consider you for this position?” My answer was and still is because my lived experiences align with MIRA’s mission and vision (to advocate for immigrants and refugees).

I am grateful to have been considered for the membership coordinator position and I am also proud to work for an inclusive organization with a diverse team. An organization that continually strives to achieve milestones and shares inspirational success stories while embracing the narratives of immigrants and refugees.

 I am originally from Liberia, West Africa. I lived through the Liberian Civil War which began in late 1989. I was about 18 years old a freshman at the University of Liberia when the first face of the Liberian Civil War started. My dad was a professor in the College of Agriculture and Forestry at the University. I lived with my parents in the University staff housing on the Fendall Campus. I thought my life was all set up until one disaster- a civil war destabilized everything.   

I remember coming from school one day on the staff bus and some things prompted me to go to my sisters at our family home in Paynesville on the outskirts of Liberia’s capital city Monrovia. Since that day I’ve never gone back to the University Staff housing in Fendal. My parents got cut up in the fighting on the Fendal campus so my sisters and I were separated from our parents and we soon found ourselves as refugees in neighboring Ghana, West Africa. While in Ghana, we received assistance from local and international faith-based and non-profit organizations.

The International Red Cross family tracing services (a full version of my story can be found on their YouTube channel) eventually reunited my sisters and me with our parents, who had also fled Liberia and became refugees in Sierra Leone, West Africa. After a few weeks of reuniting with our parents in Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leonean Civil War started, forcing us to return to war-torn Liberia.

After several years of living in neighboring countries, I traveled to the United States and obtained the required documents to live here.

Something interesting happened in my family’s life long before the Liberian Civil War. My mother used to work with the United Nations Development Programme. This organization often brought in refugees from neighboring countries and would ask for host families. My mother took in a girl called Elizabeth, I believe Elizabeth came from South Africa. Little did my mother know that her girls would be refugees someday. Never say never. Because you never know what turns your life might take.

Today, I am passionate about supporting immigrants and refugees because I have lived through their experiences. I thought my life was on track until that one disaster, the war destabilized everything.  I am grateful for the organizations that helped me then and the many others like MIRA Coalition and our member organizations that continue to advocate and support refugees and immigrants.

I want to thank MIRA leadership for allowing me to be part of this amazing team, thank you Stories Inspiring Movement for providing platforms for immigrants and refugees to share their stories, thank you to MIRA member organizations for supporting refugees and immigrants, thanks to all individuals and families, for welcoming immigrants and refugees into your home and personal spaces, thank you to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for welcoming immigrants and refugees, thank you, donors, your funding enables us to fulfill our mission and vision. 

In conclusion, I would like to ask for your ongoing support to enable us to continue this important work. Every contribution, no matter the size, will greatly impact the meaningful work that MIRA delivers.