Brothers Recount 5-Year Journey From Rwanda to Spartanburg

By ASHLEY DILL, Herald-Journal

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — “It takes a village…” is a proverb which means a group of individuals should come collectively to help these in want.

Or in different phrases, to be a very good neighbor.

Brothers Jean De Dieu Ntihemuka and Jean Claude Asifiwe say it was the nice neighbors of the Spartanburg group who made them really feel welcomed and wrapped their household in love and help after they arrived on the Greenville-Spartanburg Worldwide Airport late one August evening in 2015.

Jean De Dieu, Jean Claude, and their mom, entered the USA with few belongings, the shortcoming to talk English and quite a lot of hope.

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Since 2015, World Aid Upstate SC has been welcoming immigrants and refugees in each Greenville and Spartanburg counties. Jean De Dieu, Jean Claude, and their mom have been accredited by the United Nations Excessive commissioner for refugees whereas residing in a refugee camp in Rwanda, Africa to be resettled to a different nation.

The household realized one week earlier than leaving Rwanda that they’d be coming to South Carolina.

Jean De Dieu and Jean Claude have been born within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwandan genocide occurred between April 7 and July 15, 1994, in the course of the Rwandan Civil Conflict. Throughout this era of round 100 days, often known as the 100 days of slaughter, members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group, in addition to some reasonable Hutu and Twa, have been slaughtered by armed militias.

It’s estimated that multiple million individuals perished in the course of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, based on the United Nations.

Jean De Dieu was 7-years-old right now, and Jean Claude was simply 3-years-old. The household was pressured to flee their native nation of the Congo and stroll to a refugee camp in Rwanda.

“We didn’t simply determine to depart,” Jean De Dieu stated. “We left our nation due to the civil conflict. At the moment we have been thought-about Tutsis, and the individuals committing the genocide have been searching for the identical individuals. We walked from the Congo to Rwanda, round 50-62 miles. It took virtually per week and lots of died throughout that point. In the course of the conflict, you must discover a protected method to stroll, by the bush more often than not in the course of the evening.”

Jean Claude says he doesn’t know adequately describe what life within the refugee camp was like. He felt protected from the genocide, however each brothers stated they might see how tough it was for his or her mom.

“Within the Congo, we had a farm, property,” Jean Claude stated. “However they took all of that, killed our animals, and we needed to flee. Within the camp, there is no such thing as a faculty, working water, electrical energy, or meals we knew we’d have that day.”

Jean Claude seems round the lounge within the new home he, his brother, and mom now personal in Spartanburg. Closing on their very own residence final yr, proudly owning property once more, and in America, was a milestone for his or her household.

“The house we lived in within the refugee camp, your entire area would match into this one room,” Jean Claude stated.

However being so younger when arriving on the refugee camp, the boys quickly adjusted to their new life.

Many nations, together with America, present resettlement applications for refugees. A refugee is outlined as individuals who have been pressured to depart their nation to be able to escape conflict, persecution, or pure catastrophe. The variety of refugees accepted to the USA every year is about by the President in session with Congress that should happen earlier than Oct. 1 every year. Based on the Nationwide Immigration Discussion board, The Presidential Willpower formally setting the refugee ceiling was issued on Oct. 28, 2020, for 15,000 refugees to be resettled in FY 2021.

Jean De Dieu stated resettlement among the many refugees in Rwanda is sort of a lottery and is decided by many elements. Refugees from their camp in Rwanda are despatched to America, Canada, Australia and Scandinavia.

“We don’t select the place we go,” Jean De Dieu stated. “They inform us. And to be chosen, there may be nothing you are able to do however apply and wait.”

Their household’s title was chosen in 2011.

“I don’t wish to be known as a refugee once more,” Jean Claude stated. “I wish to have a house, and now I do.”

However the course of from being chosen to really getting on a airplane and being resettled is intensive and might take as much as 5 years. To be admitted to the USA, refugees undergo background checks, screenings and interviews below the USA Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

The household came upon they have been being resettled to South Carolina the day earlier than the airplane departed from Rwanda in August 2015.

Jean De Dieu, Jean Claude, and their mom have been all given a mortgage by the federal government of $1,340 for his or her airplane tickets which they’d three years to pay again. This can be a method for refugees to start constructing their credit score.

They have been additionally related with World Aid Upstate who helped discover housing for the household earlier than arriving. Their first three months of hire funds have been coated. World Aid and members of the Come Nearer group in Spartanburg met the household on the airport. Their function is to assist refugees learn to store, join them with native volunteers and make the Upstate their residence. Even duties so simple as displaying the household use the range or microwave since this was their first time seeing home equipment in a kitchen.

World Aid Upstate workplace director Brandon Baughn says it’s a privilege to assist refugees in these first few days.

“We solid this image of the helpless and susceptible,” Baughnsaid. “However they’re essentially the most resilient, hard-working folks that I’ve ever met. They’ve endured a lot and nonetheless keep hope.”

A part of the resettlement course of in Rwanda is educating refugees how completely different their life will likely be as soon as resettled overseas. However each brothers stated nothing prepares you for the way completely different will probably be. They now wanted to work to make a residing moderately than working to offer for the day in Rwanda.

Jean De Dieu and Jean Claude each bought jobs on the Belk’s distribution heart in Jonesville as third-shift packers. Volunteers with Come Nearer supplied transportation for them to get forwards and backwards to work till they have been in a position to buy their first automotive.

They stated studying the language was one other huge hurdle. They stated watching YouTube movies and attending Summit Church in Spartanburg, listening to the service and having conversations with volunteers from church helped them be taught English.

“It was good to see individuals from church,” Jean Claude stated. “While you go to the church, it was completely different. We’re Christian, and it was comforting to go to have individuals worshipping the identical God as us regardless that the language was completely different.”

Jean Claude attended Spartanburg Group School from 2016-2018 by a College Switch Program, learning science. He stated one of many proudest moments of his life was being accepted to Clemson College to check civil engineering in 2018. He’s now attending courses at Greenville Tech and can start working at AJH Renovations as an assistant challenge supervisor this week.

Jean De Dieu is now employed with Kohler in Spartanburg and says having the ability to buy such a phenomenal residence within the Boiling Springs space for them and their mom in November 2020 was like a dream to him. The American Dream.

“To reside in a spot I can name my residence,” Jean De Dieu stated. “Since we left our residence in 1996, we didn’t have a house. Now we do.”

Jean De Dieu says he needs individuals to have a greater understanding of what the refugee resettlement course of is and the way it works.

“I attempt to put myself of their footwear,” Jean De Dieu stated. “I don’t need individuals in my nation from in all places who haven’t been checked. I perceive the frustration however I would like the federal government to speak with individuals on who we’re. We’re right here to have a life. We are going to work laborious and pay our personal method. I’ll defend the Structure and the Structure will defend me too. I’m grateful to have a spot to be residence.”

To Jean Claude, being an American means having the ability to reside the life his mom dreamed for him. When his mom was the age he’s now, she was fleeing her homeland from a civil conflict. However now her sons are residents of the USA.

“My future children may have privileges I didn’t have,” Jean Claude stated. “The subsequent technology of my household may have a house and by no means undergo what I went by. I discovered hope from the individuals right here. Spartanburg didn’t turn into simply hope to me. It turned life.”

Jim Geyer, a pastor at Summit Church in Spartanburg, attended Jean Claude’s citizenship ceremony in November. He was there when the household landed on the GSP airport in 2015 and has walked by life with the household since assembly them, even going again to Rwanda with Jean Claude to go to his sister who nonetheless lives on the refugee camp.

Geyer wasn’t allowed into the citizenship ceremony as a consequence of COVID protocols, however he was ready simply exterior. He watched Jean Claude stroll out along with his certificates and an American flag.

“It was a type of proud papa moments,” Geyer stated by tears. “He was dancing and waving his flag. I advised him he needed to sing a music, and he sang ‘I’m proud to be an American.’”

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