Stronger Shines the Light Inside is an ongoing photography project that tells the personal stories of refugees in the United States. In 2015, Los Angeles-based photographer Angie Smith began documenting refugees rebuilding their lives in Boise, Idaho. She’s since photographed communities in Salt Lake City, Albany, New York, and Los Angeles. Stronger Shines the Light Inside helps Americans understand the complexities, struggles, and personal triumphs that refugees experience in their everyday lives.

Of the 65 million displaced people worldwide, only 1% will eventually be resettled in a host country. And of that 1%, each has endured a long and grueling screening process, often spanning years. This project presents refugees as individuals, each with a unique story, grappling with questions of self identity, reconciliation with the past, and sifting through the emotions of adjusting to an entirely new culture.

Every story is different, but each one speaks of hope, of refusal to give up. Many point to a serendipitous moment, a right person at the right time—someone who saved their life while fleeing, who offered a ride to a supermarket on their first day in America, maybe a friendly face who helped them read a bus schedule, or someone who simply smiled and said hello. All speak of their desire to integrate and contribute to the community, and many express gratitude for those who have helped them to do so.