Lived Experiences

Vive has acted as a temporary home for thousands throughout the years and continues to host people from all over the world. It is our mission to treat each and every person with dignity and respect and to make them feel welcome, safe, and at peace. We’ve welcomed many amazing men, women, and children as resident refugees, and featured below are are some of their “lived experiences,” in their own words. One of our former AmeriCorps volunteers also shares what her time at Vive meant to her.

No matter how long or short one’s stay is, Vive will always have a place in people’s hearts. So much more than just a shelter, Vive is about “life” and the relationships we form with one another.

17 year-old from Burundi:

“I’m from Burundi, a country located in the eastern part of Africa. After being denied entry to Canada to ask for asylum, my Canadian lawyer called me and told me that I should go to Buffalo, NY, to a refugee shelter known as Vive, Inc. I didn’t know anything about Vive. After being sent back from the Canadian border, I had to stay at Vive for six months before going back to the Canadian border. I would never have thought that I could enjoy as much as I did living at Vive. I made many friends from different countries, and I was able to learn about different cultures from different people. I learned so many things that I now believe there is a reason for everything. I believe that there was a reason why I was denied entry to Canada at that time, and there was a reason why I went to Vive. I was able to study for the GED, and I thank God that I got it. I also thank God for meeting such nice people at Vive who were able to take care of me and give me everything that I needed. Thank you, Vive, for the love that you showed me, and I hope that you will continue showing love and taking good care of people coming from different countries with different problems.”

20 year-old male from Eritrea:

“Vive was like a home for me. I was there from Nov. 7, 2010 to June 28, 2011. I moved many times, but I never felt comfortable like I felt at Vive.There are many things I learned there. I learned how to make contact with people from different cultures. I learned to how respect the rules and “to wake up early sometimes.” I think Vive is the best shelter in N.Y. or the U.S. for refugees, because it’s a safe and comfortable place. Workers at Vive make the shelter more acceptable for people who had a better life back home. They also try their best to keep the refugees safe. The best things about Vive are 1) everybody has a job, so we all work to keep Vive going, 2) we get free Internet access in the teen room and the TV room, and 3) there is a private prayer room for all the religions.”

Young woman from Afghanistan:

“When I went to Vive it was really strange and hard for me to stay there. I didn’t know anyone, and everyone was a stranger. But, day by day, it became good for me, and I was enjoying my days. I found good friends, everybody was nice, and I didn’t feel like a stranger anymore. I don’t even know how those six months passed. I went to parties and parks, and I really enjoyed each day of my life. It was really hard for me to leave Vive. I knew everyone there, and they became a part of my family. I still miss everyone, and I will always remember them.”

Man from Afghanistan:

“Vive Inc. is a non-profit organization that helps refugees from all over the world. I’m one of those refugees. Living at Vive has been a good experience for me; Vive is such a wonderful place. This is a house of peace and love, which made me feel like I was living in my own home. The Vive staff is very nice, and they gave me the feeling of love and respect.”

Former AmeriCorps volunteer:

“After completing high school, I spent a gap year working as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Vive, Inc., a shelter for Canada-bound world refugees in Buffalo, NY. My commitment consisted of coordinating sleeping arrangements and chores, addressing concerns of clients, and organizing donations. My daily work at Vive provided me with an inspiring international experience. I valued the power of empathy as an observer and listener. I learned not only about culture and geography but also about the effects of ongoing conflict and social displacement. I began thinking more about how geography affects a community or culture in its development, interactions, and movement. The political, social, and cultural conflicts I learned about from Sri Lankan, Tibetan, Haitian, Somali, and Afghani refugees required place-specific approaches, rather than following a solution blueprint. Solutions to large or small problems, both domestic and international, must be developed with consciousness of place.While working with clients at Vive, I consistently reflected upon the importance of community, culture, identity, and place that were interconnected with strength, resilience, and empowerment. I learned the intrinsic value of these factors, not only for refugee groups, but also for myself and the communities that surround me. I realized the significance of cultivating and maintaining community identity, resilience, and empowerment.”