Coming To America

Interfaith Ministries is asking the public to donate household items to its Refugee Services program. The nonprofit best known for its Meals on Wheels program also helps people from other countries assimilate in the U.S.. Bill Stamps tells us the story of one family that just came to Houston from the Congo.

It’s 8 o’clock at night and Alex Azanyemahoro is seeing his family for the first time in six years. Alex fled to Uganda before coming to the U.S. three years ago.

The State Department just recently gave the rest of his family permission to come.

With the help of Interfaith Ministries the family goes straight to a Houston apartment. There’s not much in it just the necessities: beds and food.  Ali Alsudani is in charge of the program.

“We provide them with housing, food. We help them apply for public services, food stamps, Medicaid. We enroll the children in schools and we find them jobs.”

In their native land, the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than a million people have fled to neighboring countries as government and rebel forces continue to fight.

Alex remembers finding out he was coming to America.

“I didn’t’ know that I’m coming here but the last day for me to fly they told me that I’m going to America. I was happy to come to America.”

Alex now has a job and plans to go to school to be a machinist.

He’s come along way. Many refugees have never seen things like a stove or dishwasher before, so they are given instructions on how to use them.

Alex’s mother Sada had never been on a plane before.

“It was kind of scary at the beginning. But at the end, she kind of got used to it. But it was scary at first.”

In Houston alone, more than 500 refugees are taken in each year. Most come from Iraq, Burma, Bhutan and Africa.

This family hasn’t even been in the U.S a full day, but they know they’ve hit the jackpot. Their lives will never be the same as it was before.

“Refugee life is not easy, it’s very difficult. Sometimes you don’t have food and sometimes they don’t even allow you to work.”

Sada the mother sits on a couch with a big smile on her face. I asked Alex what his mother was thinking.

“She don’t believe she’s dreaming or something. I said, ‘no, you’re here with me now.’”

Each family member plans to go to school or get a job — things they couldn’t do in Africa.  So in a sense it is a dream, the American dream.

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