GOD REMAINS FAITHFUL TO US
My name is Simwerayi Hubert Wetemwami and this is my wife Batyo Helene Simwerayi. We are originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We come from the East of Congo in a city called Goma. We have been married for 27 years we have five sons , two daughters and one grand’daughter’. While in the Congo, I worked as a banker and my wife was a teacher. I also worked as a human rights activist since 1995, reuniting families and cautioning civilians against dangers that came with the war and insecurities.
We migrated to Manchester, New Hampshire from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo in October of 2002, leaving behind our seven children, the age of five to fifteen. Words cannot express what I witnessed.Men and young boys were being forced to join the army while women as well as young girls were being raped and killed even used as sex slaves.
The reason why I fled to United States is because I was attacked and almost killed by militia group. They were not found of my work as a human rights activist. I had held a meeting cautioning the youth about the country’s insecure situation. I was teaching them peaceful ways by which they could stand up for themselves and refuse being forced to join the army…That night, armed men came to my home and kicked in the door. My wife and kids were terrified and went to hide underneath their beds. The rebels’ soldiers were stomping and beating me left to right until they decide it was time to complete their mission. They were going to cut my head off with a machete. I raised my hands to the neck; they ended up scarring my hand instead. A few moments after that, I was lying unconscious and the invaders had finally left.
The war officially began in August 1996 in the Kivu Province where we lived. The war involved more than 5 neighboring countries and approximately 20 armed groups. Although the war officially ended in July 2003, people are still dying to this day due to the civil war and its aftermath. Beside this war problem, I want just to remind you that in 2001, the volcano destroyed almost the half of the town of Goma making the lives more difficult. After being beaten and many other problems, many friends urged me to find a refugee camp where I could be safe. For me, it was not an easy thing to do with my big family and also knowing how people suffered when they are in refugee camp because I had experienced it as a former Higher Commissioner of refugee employee also known as UNHCR. However we had a friend who lived in the United States who applied for a diversity lottery visa for us to come and live in the United States. The diversity visa program better known as the green card lottery provides individuals from countries with low immigrations rates to the United States with a green card. Applicants who meet eligibility requirements are entered into a random drawing. The winners are notified and after a series of interviews they may receive permanent residence in the United States. When we won we were very excited to come to the US. The whole family was getting ready to travel, but then we received the shocking news. Our friend who played the lottery for us notified us that all the expenses including our plane tickets and immigrations fees will have to come out of our own pockets. But we could not afford to pay for the whole family. So my wife and I flew to Cameroon where we had our interview at the US Consulate. Upon our arrival at the Embassy, they told us that because we were not with our children, they could join us after six years due to immigration rules. We then decided that Helene my wife could go back to the Congo to take care of our children, but our friend from America encouraged us to come together so we could work hard and save enough money to bring our children. However we soon learned that the terms of our immigration visa were different from those of refugees who are taken in charge by different agencies.
After our arrival, I found work as a machine operator at a factory and my wife found work as a house keeper. For the first few months, we lived at my friend’s house in Hooksett, but after saving enough money, we rented an apartment in Manchester. Things were very difficult. We worked long hours on different shifts, got very little sleep and we were always worried about our children. We both cried privately. We didn’t own a car and we were barely paying our rent, so it was hard to save money. And this was because since we arrived in the United States, we never received any assistance (We were not eligible for food stamps, medicare or other benefits)We are always active in the Christian community. One day we were at church and met Nina Glick Scheiller. Nina who is an anthropologist was doing her research on refugees and immigrants resettlement. Nina was the beginning of God’s answer to our situation .We told her about our children and she wanted to help. Our story was published in the University of New Hampshire magazine and a group started the committee of rights and Justice (CORAJ) on our behalf and found us a lawyer, the others began fund raising. Soon after that we received some bad news regarding our children. Soldiers looking for American dollars had attacked the children at their grandmother’s home after learning that the children’s parents were now living in America. We were distraught, the urgency of the situation escalated .Nina and Coraj had our children relocated to Kampala (Uganda) and our lawyer began seeking Humanitarian visas to get them to the United States faster .After hard work by many kind people, our children arrived in Boston in September 2004.
In the Congo, I was a human rights activist while my wife Helene was a teacher and involved in different activities and charities for the church. Together, we were helping those kids whose parents were killed during the war and those children whose mothers were raped and disowned by their husbands. We started a nonprofit organization called “G.O.S.D”:”The Orientation and Relief Group of the Rights and Development of the Deprived Ones” We were supporting everything from our own pockets. Since coming to America, we have kept doing what we could to support them with schooling and other needs . It’s not easy especially because there are many who are in need and we can’t afford all the expenses because we are limited financially. Recently we were blessed and bought a big space of land in the city of Goma where we are planning to build a vocation school .This would be helpful to students with different talents for , they would be able to work and provide for themselves and their parents as well. The plan is to go to school, learn and trade and the school will help them find work. And while working, a percentage of the work will help pay the teachers and also keep the school running. The students will be able to learn trades as carpentry, construction, mechanic and mostly handy work. They will learn how to build furniture and other products. The best thing is that these children will be able to receive an education for free because in the Congo, parents are in charge of paying for their children school from elementary school to college. That’s why children are street kids because their parents can’t afford sending them to school, most of them are orphans. And I am very sure that this plan will work through the Grace of God because throughout my journey what I have learned is that God remains faithful to us.
Ladies and Gentlemen, people of God, if you have the capacity to help these children receive an education, it will be greatly appreciated.
I would like to thank sincerely Pastor Peter Plagge who gave us the opportunity to speak in front of you, and also our friend Cliff Bennett who introduced us to him. On behalf of my entire family, I want to thank from my heart all the Christians from Waterbury and everybody in the audience who welcomed us with joy.
GOD BLESSES YOU AND THANK YOU ALL!