Since being resettled, Emile's English has improved immensely. Nevertheless, he works a low-paying job, often the only kind refugees can find. He spends the night shift cleaning the airport in order to support his family. By American standards, he's not flourishing. In fact, he's struggling.
My husband and I saw Emile over the weekend at a ceremony held to remember the atrocities occurring in the Congo. Approximately 300 Congolese refugees from all over the country attended this event, which Emile organized. It used songs, poetry, and testimony to tell the story of the Congo and to remember what's happening there. Throughout it, Emile's leadership gifts were readily apparent.
The stories each of the speakers at this remembrance shared were powerful, but one woman in particular captivated my attention. Her name was Rose.
Rose spoke for about 45 minutes, mostly in Kinyarwandan, which someone graciously translated for us. Among other things, she shared how she gave birth to twins (without medical care) while unjustly imprisoned. She described how to so many, Congolese Tutsi are animals. But according to her, “Even God created the animals, not just to eat; but to care for.”
At one point, however, Rose switched to English and began talking directly to my husband and I. I know this because we were two of only four native English speakers in the room.
She then told us, loudly and boldly, “Who we are is not a crime.”
She went on to say, “We need peace in our country and YOU can help us.” According to her, we can stand up and do something to help those who are still in these refugee camps.
Later during the remembrance, several people spoke about the need for better education in the refugee camps from which they've come. The group hosting this remembrance, Kivu Youth United, had worked feverishly to arrange a partnership that would allow teens in the camp to take the national exam in Rwanda (a huge hurdle for completing their education). However, to do this, there was a very real cost - Approximately $100 a child. After laying out the facts, the speakers then issued an invitation for others to give to this important cause. Together, these refugees – most of whom work low-paying jobs like Emile – proceeded to raise nearly $500 to support this important cause.
As I watched this unfold before me, I thought of something else Rose said.
“We don't come here just to cry.”
Indeed, refugees don't.
They come here to flourish.
It turns out that what determines whether or not you flourish is not how much you earn, but how much you give.