American Life: From the Congo to Central Virginia

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The Democratic Republic of Congo has been embroiled in conflict for over a decade, forcing millions of refugees to flee. Neighboring African countries have absorbed many, where they must live in refugee camps.

Families can languish for years in political limbo. We visited  a Congolese family re-settled in Charlottesville, after spending a decade in a camp in Tanzania. 

In 1999, Bwiseze Bahane, his wife Nzigire and their 6 children fled the Democratic Republic of Congo, running from coups, civil war and violence to find shelter in Tanzania.

Nzigire Bwiseze says life was different as compared to the Congo but, "when we arrived in their refugee camp we thanked god and were very happy."

Bweieze Bahane says the first months of the life were hard because, "we have to build the house and it was a new life."

Their youngest son Samuel was only 1 when the Bwiseze's fled to Tanzania. They say raising their family in a refugee camp was a daunting prospect, especially when during the first few months the most basic necessities were hard to come by.

Nzigire said, "I had to get wood to make a fire and make food and I had to go to the well to get water and I had small children and there were problems at the camp."

Life was difficult in the refugee camp, but they could not return to the Congo. So after several years they began the process with the UN High Council on Refugees to be re-settled. When they were accepted the International Rescue Committee or IRC got involved to help the Bwiseze's get set up here in Charlottesville.

Bwiseze said, "Everyday we pray for God to open another way for us to go."

In 2009 the IRC moved the family to Charlottesville. A fresh start, in a safe place, building their American life.

The International Rescue Committee is one of the biggest providers of humanitarian support in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Click here to find out more about the crisis in the region.