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Season of Giving

From the Christmas season into the New Year, WRQC Immigrant Family Resource Program Manager, Chantal Nabageni, reflects on her resettlement in the Quad Cities through WRQC along with the support she received and her journey to becoming an IFRP Manager.   

“I love this job because when I first arrived, someone was providing this service to me. I didn’t even understand the process. But at the end of each month, I’d receive SNAP benefits in my LINK (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card,” Chantal Nabageni stated as one of the many reasons she loves her job.  

It’s been over a year since Chantal joined WRQC’s IFRP team, but her involvement can be traced back to just shortly after she arrived in the U.S.  

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chantal resettled in the Quad Cities in 2018 after living in Burundi for 18 years. Upon her arrival, she reunited with her family, who arrived in the U.S. just weeks before she did.  

“The caseworkers had contacted my family, everyone was full of joy, happiness, and it made me feel so welcomed,” she said. 

“Not only was my caseworker and family there, but community members were also there to welcome me,” Chantal continued.  

Her gratitude from the arrival at the airport only grew upon receiving the warm welcome of a new home. 

“When I arrived home, I found everything was ready just for me. Lotion, towels, hygiene products, pots, and even the little things you couldn’t imagine, were waiting for me.”

An opportunity to serve

Just a couple months into her resettlement, Chantal began giving back through her language skills, including French, Swahili, and Kirundi. 

“There were many families that came after me and there were no staff that could speak the languages they speak. So, the caseworker reached out to me to see if I could help with interpreting,” Chantal said. 

Chantal saw interpretation as an opportunity to contribute to not just WRQC, but also to her fellow community members. She took it without hesitation.  

As an interpreter for WRQC, Chantal’s primary job was a community Health Worker at CHC helping and supporting hospital patients in connecting them with “primary care provider and additionally resources.” 

She also helped during home visits and with conversations between caseworkers and clients in different settings. But Chantal always knew she wanted to pursue a career in helping refugees with their resettlement journey.  

Soon enough, an opportunity was opened to Chantal to go beyond interpreting and to join the WRQC team as a staff member.

A greater purpose awaits

The IFRP Caseworker position was offered by Habie Timbo, former IFRP Manager, who was transitioning out of IFRP to begin introducing the mental health department.  

“When she (Habie) told me about the opportunity, I accepted and I would say that I already wanted to work here even before,” Chantal stated.

“To do this as a career, it’d give me more time to serve, it’d give me more responsibility and contribute to the mission and make an impact in people lives,” she said.  

After one year as an IFRP Caseworker, Chantal moved up to the manager position and was able to build a team of her own. 

Her role is to “maintain and develop relationships” with the Illinois Department of Human of Resources through approved representation of clients who are new to the system. After completing initial applications, Chantal advocates, follows up, and “does everything for the clients.” 

“I like that I am able to help and support, to get the resources they need such as WIC, food stamps, Medicaid and much more,” she said.  

She describes her job as a fulfilling component to her life. The way she’d experience the feeling of receiving help, she wants to do the same in return.  

“They don’t know the process or that there are people working for them. We don’t even know these clients, but we are working for them,” Chantal said.  

“When I met them after three or four months of their resettlement, they would say ‘you are Chantal,’ and they’d thank me,” she said. “They would say that they’ve heard of me and know that I work for them to get these benefits. I love seeing people being happy when they receive Link card,” she continued.

The great commandments

As we leave the Christmas season and enter 2024, Chanal reflects on her journey from the time she arrived in the U.S. to how she’s serving the community now.  

“For me as a Christian and in this season, it’s time to reflect on God’s love. He sent his Son to save us. The love God give us is the love he asks us to give to others.” 

Chantal witnessed how her coworkers serve other with love in the way they “do things beyond their job,” and in the way they “welcome refugees.” 

“So, for me, it’s giving back to what I once received, going above and beyond is a gift to the people that we serve. It’s very hard to be here in the U.S., language barrier, and to be able to navigate if you don’t have someone to guide you,” she said.  

“WRQC, the staff, the volunteers, donors, everything they do is a gift to them (our families) and that’s what God asks us to do. To love our neighbors as he loves us.”

Want to play a role in supporting refugees? Consider making a financial gift:

Kler Soe is the Communications Specialist at World Relief Quad Cities. She joined the team after graduating from St. Ambrose University in May of 2023 with a degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication. As a refugee herself, she hopes to bring awareness to World Relief’s work through stories. 

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