Many refugees call Duval County home

Many refugees call Duval County home

Many refugees from all over the world are living their American dream right here in Duval County.
       
Tuesday is World Refugee Day. It's a day dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of refugees throughout the globe.

First Coast News spent the evening with a local refugee family from the Congo in Africa.
      
The family said refugees are not looking for a handout; they are searching for a future.

Mukamuvara Umamariya sat alongside three of her eight children. Her husband Habimana Francosi was away at work.

Umamariya doesn't speak much English, so her 13-year-old daughter, Ingabir, helped her communicate.

More than 20 years ago, Umamariya and her husband fled their war torn home in the Congo with four small children, all under the age of five; the youngest was just two-months-old.

"They were so scared," Ingabir translated.

The family fled to Rwanda, where they lived in a refugee camp, void of basic necessities, including water.

So, they had to walk four hours to quench their thirst.

Angelique, a petite, soft-spoken woman, recalls walking, along with her younger sister, Diane, for clean water.

"You have to put it on your head and your back," Angelique said.

Her 10-year-old brother, Daniel, didn't have to help fetch the water but he did have to wait for his sisters to return.

"It was so hard. Everyday we got thirsty," Daniel said.

After living at the refugee camp for 20 years, the family of eight, was granted asylum and resettled in an apartment in Jacksonville. That was three years ago. It was also the first time the family saw running water.

"It's like magic," Angelique said.

The family said life is different now. They are being assisted with resettlement by Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida and Natalie Holland, a 20-year-old University of North Florida graduate, who has become part of the family.
           
"I love being with them and helping with homework," Holland said.

Lutheran Social Services helped their father and older brother find jobs. The non-profit, funded by federal dollars and donations, also assists refugees from all over the world with housing, education including English classes, and medical resources, just to name a few.

Holland, a Jacksonville native, said refugees are not the enemy.

"They are just like us. They want to be happy, healthy and safe," Holland said.

Not everyone shares that opinion. These are turbulent times for refugees seeking safety in America.

Umamariya has two older children still living in the refugee camp in Rwanda.

Daniel, who enjoys riding bikes he didn't have access to before, said he hopes his family will one day be reunited.

"Because everybody is a person. They have the same heart ... and same blood too," Daniel said.

The children all hope to go to college and become doctors, a nurse, professional soccer player, and an actress.
         
To learn more about Lutheran Social Services, click here.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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