Living in Burundi during the Civil War, Francois spent much of his life in fear. He was constantly immersed in the struggle of “two ethnicities fighting against each other.” In December of 1996, he was relocated to a Tanzanian refugee camp with little access to water or electricity. In the context of all he had experienced, safety seemed impossible. He felt frustrated and hopeless as the years passed.
“I don’t remember anything good,” he said. “It was all bad.”
Francois spent ten years in the camp, and it wasn’t until 2006 that he was given an opportunity to resettle. He was welcomed by another agency in San Diego, California. Though grateful to finally be in the US, he began to feel overwhelmed. Everything was newer. He was able to communicate with others through limited English, but he didn’t know how to get around and found it difficult to meet his new hygiene standards. He wasn’t sure how to interact with the culture.
Laughing, he recalled, “I had this idea that I was going to get money from any person I met.”
Even after going to school and becoming fluent in the language, Francois was missing another key element of a stable life in his new country. He didn’t have his citizenship. As his path toward security landed him in the Quad Cities, he found World Relief. WRQC provided the outside support that allowed him to express his concerns without fear. Eventually, with the help of WRQC, he was able to obtain his citizenship. And that’s not all.
“My wife got citizenship through World Relief. My kid got citizenship through World Relief,” he added.
Becoming a US citizen was the last major step in Francois’ journey, allowing him to become fully self-sufficient. He began to focus on the things he enjoys without worry. Because he has always “enjoyed working with people of different cultures,” he grew interested in helping other refugees. He saw a chance to help others overcome situations like his when WRQC contacted him and asked him to be an interpreter.
Today, he’s restoring faith and creating lasting change for the immigrants and refugees that visit WRQC by helping to ease the language barrier. He hopes to spread the peace he now feels after years of uncertainty. The Quad Cities has become his home, and he finally feels “safe.”
Written by Erica Parrigin