Connections Through Language Learning

My name is Kubuya, and I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When I was young, my circumstances made me think I wouldn’t live even 25 years – now, I am 42 years old. There was a civil war which left with me no choice but to flee to Uganda. In Congo, I was with 33 people, and I was the only person who survived. I went as an asylee and was sent to a refugee camp, which was new at the time.

Although life was hard, I am grateful for Uganda because it was peaceful. In the Congo, I was in accountant. In Uganda, I had to dig to survive and could only get two cups of beans and 15 kilograms of flour per month. I was able to be considered for resettlement by the UNCHR because I had worked for them as a Refugee Representative. As a refugee representative, I led and spoke on behalf of more than 1,000 people.

In August 2015, I came to the United States. This was my first time on a plane, and I first arrived in New York. It was the first big city I saw in my life, and everything was new. I took my transfer to Columbus where I was met at the airport by the case manager who helped me navigate my new life here. I thank US Together because they had such a great team who showed so much love. After three months, they helped me find a job in a warehouse. Within three months of working there, I was promoted. I was able to buy a car, and I was happy and healthy. I am very grateful to this country and the agencies which helped me.

I stayed in contact with US Together, and I told them about my experience as a Refugee Representative in Uganda. I came on as a part time employee, where I was able to use my understanding of how to work with diverse populations. They saw how hard of a worker I was, and I became a case manager. The warehouse was sad to see me go as they also recognized my strong work ethic. Working as a case manager in 2020 meant dealing with a lot of hurdles we had not seen before. Those who had been resettled at the beginning of 2020 struggled to enjoy their time as everyone was under quarantine. At least now, we are able to visit homes, but there are still many barriers that have popped up in the past year. We try our best every day as case managers, but it is hard to see so many of our clients be put at such a disadvantage. Where do you begin in recreating a new life in a new country during a pandemic? Life has not been easy, but we are working together to support our community in the best way we can.

I speak a multitude of languages which is a great asset to my ability to connect with our clients. In the Congo, we have different dialects, and I can speak 13 languages. Swahili is my native language. Learning languages is a kind of love. In my opinion, it is the best thing you can learn. You can take me to so many countries, and it will be like I am home because I know their language. In school, I liked English a lot. I created an English center in my home country to help people learn English. A lot of them are working with the United Nations now. This allows them to make more money as well. A lot of them came to thank me, and said with the English I taught them, they were able to gain more opportunities. When you are living with community, you need to learn their community to communicate. You are able to help people in other languages and express themselves in English for example. They have easy communication with you. For me, it is an advantage. When you like things, it is easier to know it without any problems.

This story is part of a Refugee Communities collection.