A REFUGEE STORY

Compassion Fayetteville’s refugee family is Paying It Forward by helping camp refugees to learn and speak English!

Matendo Mukunde and his wife Kanyange and son Isadore arrived in Fayetteville, AR  from the Malawi Refugee camp in Africa.  They were there for 8 years.  Previously they had been in the Barundi Camp for 5 years.  They finally were able to immigrate to the U.S. and Fayetteville, AR in February 2017.  They arrived with nothing but one small suitcase each.  They did not speak English except for a few words.  A team of people from Compassion Fayetteville, OMNI Center, Temple Shalom and Unitarian Universalist Church met them at the airport.  They were tired and looked scared and hopeful, all at the same time.

Our team, along with the amazing help of the Canopy Organization and the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, were able to assist them in finding an apartment, jobs and a school for Isadore.  Matendo was quickly employed at a chicken processing plant in Springdale, AR and Kanyage got a position with a local charitable organization.  She is currently seeking other employment.  Isadore is flourishing at the age of 8 years in school.  He loves everything about school……his teachers, his friends, all of it.   He says he has been named a “leader” in his class.  His English is already extraordinary, and he is an excellent student.  In this short time, they have been able to purchase a used car, Matendo passed the driver’s test……no small feat when you have limited language skills……. and set up an organization to help other refugees still in camps in Africa.

Recently my husband and I hosted Thanksgiving for our family and friends at our house.  We invited our family since they have adopted Ed and me as their parents.  Their own parents died in refugee camps in Africa.

When we all shared during our dinner what we were thankful for, our family said they were grateful for their opportunities in America.  Matendo comes from a large family of 9.  He has 3 brothers and 5 sisters.  One sister lives in Zambia, one lives in Columbus MO and the others live in Uganda.  Many still live in refugee camps, and Matendo’s mission is to get all his family to the USA.  Little did we know that Matendo has already started his own organization in Uganda to help refugee single mothers, their children and orphans to learn English.  The school also trains refugees in skills for jobs they can acquire after finding their way to the USA, Canada or Australia.  Having English and job skills before they enter English speaking countries makes it so much easier for the refugees.

Matendo’s youngest brother, Joshua Kisibo,  is the English teacher in this camp in Nakivale……..he is a refugee also.  His brother learned English in a camp in Uganda.  (picture above)

Matendo sends his own money to his brother. …….maybe $100 at a time…….via Western Union since they always worried that it could be stolen.  And $100 goes a long way in Africa where everything is so cheap.   His brother must walk for a day to pick up the money to use for chalk, pencils, etc.  This training school is for single mothers and there are already more than 65 attending classes to learn English and job skills.  The Camp has no problem with the schools and classes being held there.  Refugees have a better chance of gaining their freedom if they speak English and have a skill.

Matendo wants to build more school buildings called “majanjas for teaching.

https://reliefweb.int/report/uganda/unicef-uganda-humanitarian-situation-report-april-2018

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