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More to Offer: Abe’s Story

In honor of the recently increased refugee cap, we’re sharing stories from some of the brave Quad Cities refugees and immigrants who strive to create a community of welcome for those following in their footsteps. Together, we can [Re]Build. 


Mbanzamihigo “Abe” Ibrahim’s first memory of the U.S. is of fireworks. “It was two days away from the Fourth of July. I had never seen, experienced, or even heard of fireworks,” he recalls. On that day, he was blessed with a sense of hope that would last a lifetime.

Abe’s family was granted asylum in the U.S. when he was just ten years old. He had always dreamed of a way to make his mark on the world. But having been “basically born” in a Tanzanian refugee camp, he was never asked what he wanted to do when he grew up. His family was focused on survival.

“I would be done with high school, but probably wouldn’t be doing anything with my life,” he said.

When his family’s case finally made it off the waiting list, Abe was scared. The music, the food, the language – all of that was about to change.

With a little encouragement, Abe’s fear turned into passion. Sometimes, the question “What do you want to do with your life?” is just as important as a safe and accepting environment.

After World Relief Quad Cities helped Abe’s family settle into their new home, he re-enrolled in school. Abe was finally around people who asked him about his future – the support he never realized he needed. “Like a sponge” absorbing information, he learned English in just one year.

Abe reflected the kindness he was shown and quickly began to make new friends.

“When you’re surrounded by good people, you become a good person,” Abe continued.

Most importantly, he didn’t lose touch with his culture. Though he was born in Tanzania, Abe embodies his parents’ Burundian values.

One of those values is community. By showing compassion to others, especially when they’re vulnerable, together we can build loving communities whose actions reach the hearts of everyone involved.

Abe’s main goal in life is to give young people the same support that he received when he was a child. As someone who “looks and talks like them,” he hopes to be a role model they can truly relate to.

While he pursues his psychology degree at St. Ambrose University, he works as a Preferred Community Caseworker at World Relief Quad Cities. Abe regularly shares his story at his organization’s events and is often recognized for his speaking roles at their March 2021 Gala and recent partnership with the Putnam Museum, The Colors of Culture exhibit.  

He also holds a platform that advocates for the success of Burundi children, hoping to visit one day and tell them how much they have to offer.

“I want to show them how big the world is,” he said. 

From fear and uncertainty to inspiring and educating others, Abe has remained kind and courageous – he will always find more to offer.

Written by Erica Parrigin

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