Can you imagine being a refugee in the process of resettlement for over fifteen years?
Francoise Chimalonza, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo has experienced it firsthand. Fifteen years ago, Francoise fled the Congo due to a war and was placed for resettlement in Rwanda. Her final resettlement paperwork was not finalized until 2014, which is when she could finally move to the U.S.
Although Francoise’s resettlement was finalized, coming to the U.S. with no English-speaking ability created additional hurdles. Languages were nothing new for Francoise, however. She was already fluent in five languages: Swahili, Kinyarwanda, French, Lingala, and Kirudni. Nevertheless, learning a completely new language is a great challenge, but this was not Francoise’s biggest worry. She was a new mother and was expecting another child in a few months.
Still, she wanted to learn English and enrolled in our English at Home program for a year. Afterward, she took GED classes at night so that she and her husband could take care of their children while advancing their careers. She successfully completed the GED program in one year, even though she had just learned to speak English that same year. Francoise’s success has continued as she has matriculated to the Interactive College of Technology where she is enrolled in a Medical Office program.
Francoise has faced many challenges to achieve all that she has, but she states that her biggest challenge and fear was being able to pursue her career while expecting a new child and taking care of her family. Nonetheless, she succeeded and seeks to inspire other mothers and refugees who face similar challenges. “If you put your mind to what you want, being a mother won’t stop you,” she says. After completing her coursework at the Interactive College of Technology, Francoise hopes to go to nursing school to become a nurse.