Posted by Aime Kalangwa
My story helps illustrate my reasons for recently starting my organization, “Everyday Hope,” which aims to assist orphaned refugee children.
I am a refugee from DR Congo in Africa. I have been living in the United States since 20ll. I was an asylum seeker living as a refugee in Uganda for three years until I was resettled to the U.S. and provided with foster parents and an education. I lost my parents when I was l4-years-old to rebels who targeted my father because he was a government soldier and they wanted confidential government documents from him. I watched rebels torture and murder him before they killed my family one by one each day. Because of some government documents, I lost my parents, three sisters and five brothers. I survived with my younger brother. After that, my brother and I left our hometown with only the clothes on our backs and no idea where we were going.
After a few weeks walking in the jungle, we found ourselves in Uganda. Once we were in Uganda, I was sick, hungry, and hopeless for the future. I didn’t know where to start, or where to go for help. I didn’t even know what being a refugee meant. I had no family and no friends. I was in a new country that used a different language. At that time, I could only hope to find safety. At this point, I did not know the UN Refugee Agency existed, nor did I know how to access the protection they provided. There was nobody in Uganda to guide me through the process. I was homeless in the city since I didn’t know anything about the refugee camp. I pushed myself and was able to complete the process myself but it was really hard and there were many challenges. At that time I needed food, shelter, safety, as well as education, hope, affection and counselling services, but I did not receive any of them. I wanted to be treated as other children were being treated but I was not.
Eventually, through the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS and the Refugee Law Protect, RLP, I was lucky to access UN refugee protection. After 3 years, that protection helped me with third world country resettlement to the US. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops helped me in Florida to get foster parents and to pay for my education.
I still ask myself, what about those who are not as strong as I was to get up and fight for themselves? What happens to those who are sick, hungry, and hopeless, especially those who do not know how to access the process like I had? I was lucky to be resettled, but I do not think life should be based on luck. There are many orphaned refugee children who are dying in the streets in Uganda because they do not have anyone to guard them, show them how to register as a refugee, and access the help they need.
“Everyday Hope” was founded to help orphaned refugee children who arrive in Uganda so they may initiate the process for registration and learn how to access protection. The program also helps to also identify and verify those children who qualify for help. This project aims to help refugee kids who do not have other options to get off the streets where they are vulnerable to prostitution, violence and, in some cases, death. We want to offer them some everyday hope.
To learn more about Everyday Hope, please visit www.everydayhopeproject.org or email