J. Smith Photography | Twin Falls Refugee Project

The Twin Falls Refugee Project


A number of years ago, my mother began working as a paraprofessional teaching English as a second language (ESL) in the Twin Falls public school system. I was amazed to learn of the diverse backgrounds her students were from - China, the Middle East, Bosnia, just to name a few. And all in Twin Falls, Idaho, a city I had always seen as a quiet, relatively homogenous community based in farming and agriculture.

Having lived my life traveling the world, I knew that moving from one land and culture to another can be challenging under the best of circumstances. As my mother worked with the ESL students, she shared with me some of the stories of the children she worked with. No one becomes a refugee by choice - you become a refugee to flee war, genocide, persecution. It is a journey fraught with fear and uncertainty. In the end, one hopes, some measure of peace can be found.

In my life I have had the privilege to personally know several people who, at some point in their lives, were refugees but have been able to achieve amazing things in their lives. From people fleeing Syria and traversing war zones to others that left the former Soviet Union as that system began to collapse and governments crumbled. While their journeys and stories may differ, all of them have been inspiring and, at times, heartbreaking. I have encouraged them to share their stories to ensure their posterity and others can be inspired as I have.

The purpose of this project is to highlight the stories of those who have journeyed from far-flung places across the planet to find themselves in Twin Falls, Idaho, with the assistance of the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) Refugee Center. You can learn more about the center by visiting their official homepage here

It is my belief that as we learn something of another person or people, we learn more of ourselves and our lives are enriched. May you be inspired, as I have been, by the journeys they have taken, the strength they have discovered, and the hope they seek.


Ushindi Butinda. She has come to Twin Falls from the Congo. To learn more of her journey, click here.



Ashraf Khalid. He has come to Twin Falls from Sudan. To learn more of his story, click here.


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Antoinette, Bonfis, Bella, and Mimi. They have come to Twin Falls from the Congo. To learn more of their story, click here.