Marcel fled his home in Abidgan, Ivory Coast in 2011 due to a military conflict that led to a civil war. He spent eight years in Avi Pozo Refugee Camp in Lomé, Togo with his daughter and two grandkids, ages 12 and 15 years old.
“Before the war, there was peace. There was joy. We were free to do whatever we wanted, and we were close to our communities.”
Life in the camp was difficult for Marcel and his family. No one was allowed to work, so Marcel was not able to support his family. “There were police, but no fencing or enclosure to protect us. No one felt safe in the camp. There was not much criminal activity, but there was a lot of sickness.”
After several years, Marcel and his daughter knew their was no future in Togo and they applied for resettlement in the United States. Marcel then received a life changing, but also heartbreaking, phone call. He was being offered resettlement in Indiana, but without his family. “When I first found out that I was going to be resettled, I was sad. I cried for days. I did not have a lot of hope because I knew I was going alone. But Exodus, has supported and encouraged me. I feel a little bit stronger every day because of it.”
Back in Ivory Coast, Marcel worked as a sailor on a ship transporting goods and cars to Germany and France. Now that he was allowed to work again, finding a job was very important to Marcel. “I want to work and pay taxes. I enjoy working, especially with my hands,” he explained. The Exodus employment team helped him find his first job at Alsco working in the laundry area. Marcel wakes up at 3 am every day so he can catch the bus for work. He also enjoys working alongside other refugees.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to say that I am proud to be a refugee because war in my country that I love caused me to be a refugee. But I survived, and now I can be successful thanks to everyone here.”
As heartbroken as he is to be separated from his family, Marcel is slowly building new friendships in Indianapolis. Exodus introduced him to a French-speaking volunteer mentor, Brad. “My mentor is very nice, and he has a kind spirit. He encourages me all the time,” Marcel said. “The biggest thing that Exodus has offered me is a place where I know people. I feel like I have a family here.”
Marcel’s short-term goals are to improve his English skills and learn how to drive. But, his biggest dream is to be reunited with his daughter and grandkids. “I don’t even sleep at night. All I do is ask God to be reunited with them. They are stuck in Togo with nowhere else to go.”
When asked what he would like people to know about refugees, Marcel said, ”I want people to understand that anyone in the position of threat would do anything possible to save themselves and their families. And resettlement is only possible with the protection of advocates like the UNHCR and Exodus.”