Where are you from?

Democratic of Republic of Congo


What was it like growing up?

I grew up in Lubumbashi, it’s a small town, beautiful. I came from a royal family, there was a King but the village has its own culture and. My dad’s job moved us to the city Goma and from there I went to school. That’s when the tragedy started with political issues, people were killing each other. You didn’t have any rights, there was nobody there to defend you- there was conflict from town to town. One day in the morning, they came to my house and killed two of my brothers, I remember I was waiting to die. They beat my mother and father to death, they cut me with a machete and beat me. The people who came to take the corpse, took my parents, I was alive but couldn’t talk. I came out of a coma after two months due to the amount of blood I lost. The people who rescued me wanted to rape me. They kept me and raped me for 3 months. The only way I survived was God. The lady who cooked for those men, offered to help me if I gave her my dad’s land. I signed the paper, she told me if I left during the day I would die. She said if you leave at night you need to know where to go. She told me I had to wait in the toilet (which was 2 miles deep in the dirt). Everyone who came to use the bathroom used it on me. I hung in there for 9 hours, she came back to pull me out. I couldn’t even walk she rolled me and told me I had to go. I crawled all night, I spent 3 days in the forest. There was a river I washed my body, and I ate grass. I walked three  days and made it two a safer place in Rwanda. I stayed there 2 months. I couldn’t sleep I just knew those people would come after me. I ended up at the UNCR and they flew me to Cameroon. When I got there I became a refugee for 4 years. 


What brought you to Cleveland?

I got married in Cameroon and we resettled in Philadelphia in 2008. After Philly we were looking for a new place and moved to Atlanta, everything was good I started my life over. I was feeling ashamed, because of the things that had happened to me. After two years my husband died of cancer. After that tragedy I asked God why me and moved to small city in Michigan. After 6 months I find out I have cancer too.  Through all of this I never lose hope. The doctors do a lot of surgeries and they make me sign a lot of paperwork. When I came to get my final results I entered a room full of doctors to tell me I was cancer free. One day I woke up and googled Cleveland and came here. 


What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I thought I was coming to paradise. I thought it would be a beautiful place and a place where I would have peace of mind after alI I had been through. Now I feel strong, and I feel powerful. This country gave my hope and gave my life again. I can smile. 


What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

Language was huge. I didn’t speak so I couldn’t communicate. I had to teach myself. I went to the pharmacy one day and they asked for my daughter’s birthday I didn’t understand. I felt stupid. But I speak 9 languages, and yet I taught myself English. My children grew up speaking English, watching tv, going to school- it was their environment. I’m still learning English today but now I can help everyone. 


What is your occupation?

I have been an interpreter for 1 year, and last month I was hired as a case manager at Catholic Charities.


How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

Cleveland is beautiful. The most important was the way God showed me to come here and this was my blessing place. 


What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

I never changed. I am an African woman, my tradition and my culture I respect it. 


 What do you love about Cleveland?

I love the way that my kids love the weather. It’s not too hot and it gets cold. I love that life is good and cheap here. Jobs are here. I’m not a picky person so if I can put food in my children I am good. 


Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

That is a huge question. For me to welcome immigrants and refugees is a good because I know what they are passing through. I know how they feel and what they grieve, I know what they come from. No matter where you come from, we all pass through the same situations when you flee from your home. When you have to go somewhere else It will never be home but you will create it as your home. Not only with money or with people, you have to feel it for yourself. When we welcome them we give them hope. The beginning is always hard but you tell them tomorrow is better when you have purpose and your dream.