10 Years in America
Ten years ago, I came to the United States and was warmly welcomed by a Bridge Refugee Services Case Manager with a delegation from Northside Christian Church. It had been a long and painful journey, but I was full of hope. During that time of adversity, I remained faithful.
Even if I got orientation overseas, I had mixed feelings about my new adventure and the integration process.
In 2006 I was removed from my position in the cabinet of the Rwandan government. But a wise man told me, “science never sleeps.” He was saying that although this part of my career was at an end, I would have opportunities to continue to use my knowledge and talents in the future. I have kept those words as a professional guide to this day.
Our family lost two houses, and now we own our own home. I was separated from my children for almost two years, but America allowed our reunification. My children missed one academic school year, and with the support of kind and compassionate teachers at Knoxville Catholic High School, they excellently passed their tests and exams. I had a dream to see my children graduating from college and my dream has become a reality. The four amazing young women and my handsome son are now independent professionals, giving forward in four states. Three of them are creating their own families. They are all my heroes and coaches in different capacities.
I lost friends, but I created many networks of new friends nationwide. My networks are my net worth. At faith-based communities, nonprofits organizations, foundations, classmates, the Refugee Congress and businesses, I kept knocking, and doors of opportunities were open for me and for the people I serve.
Jim Rhon said: “Formal education will give you a living and self-education will give you a fortune.” This quote changed my life. I learned from my mistakes, my teams, books, others’ experiences, successful women and men, our clients and all the constituencies I work with. For you all who supported me spiritually, emotionally, professionally, materially, intellectually and financially, I wanted to express my gratitude and my promise to do for others what you did for me. Refugees have a lot of potential. They are a blessing to our communities. We can learn more from their resiliency, and that requires approaching them with an open-minded spirit and engaging with them in different activities.
Let us keep our collaborative efforts to make our cities of Knoxville and Chattanooga more welcoming and inclusive and to help refugees to thrive together with us. To my fellow refugee clients, the integration process is not easy, but it is possible.