I am a mother, grandmother, woman of faith and wife from Rwanda, a beautiful country with a painful history. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, we lost almost 1,000,000 people. I survived. Many that I know did not.
Fourteen years later, oppression and persecution that marked much of my life finally forced me to leave my homeland. Overnight, I lost my home and every material position that I’d spent nearly 40 years earning. And, I had to leave behind what mattered more than anything to me: my husband and beloved children. My journey was full of pain, fear, and confusion.
Arriving in the United States, I connected with Bridge Refugee Services, the only resettlement agency in East Tennessee since 1982. I felt full of hope for the first time as the case manager and volunteers from Northside Christian Church warmly welcomed me.
Over the following year, I began slowly building relationships, finding my place in the community, and two years later I was reunited with my husband and children.
I am frequently asked if I have regrets or anger over my past, and my answer is simply “no.”
I have no bitterness in my heart for those who persecuted us because my faith reminds me that if I do not forgive, I am only hurting myself and I will never be forgiven by the heavenly Father.
Yes, I miss my homeland; however, I feel only gratitude for my life in Tennessee. I am grateful for the excellent education my children received.
I am grateful for my network of friends here and abroad - the communities, nonprofit organizations, and classmates who I consider family. I am grateful for friends who introduced me to unknown opportunities, mentored and helped me build my business as a speaker, coach, and author.
I am grateful that America gave me a chance to grow, learn, live, and serve.
My story is not that different from many refugees or yours. Losing all or leaving everything behind. Unable to say goodbye to and bury my mother and father. Starting from scratch. Disoriented, confused, and afraid in a foreign land.
Refugees are regularly viewed as a problem, but the truth is we are full of potential. Listen to our stories and you will hear lessons of resilience, hope, empathy, forgiveness, and love that our world desperately needs to hear.
If you are suffering from a material loss, unexpected health diagnosis, breakage in relationship, separation from your children, do not give up, remain faithful and shine a light on the promise and prosperity that can come from after darkness. Hold your head up and rise!
I want to be a light upon the world - a woman who educates, empowers and enlightens all she encounters. Let me shine a light on the what I believe is true about YOU.
Your story is as powerful as mine. Share it and shine!
Self-discovery is one step from your destination.
You are worthy and deserving.
Your resilience leads to your destiny.
"I love my mom's optimism and belief in what can be. She doesn't let anything hold her back. She is determined and focused. She values and respects all human life and is always looking for ways to challenge the status quo and improve whatever she touches. She is a powerful storyteller who can control any room she is in. My mom has the ability to connect with anyone from all aspects of life. Most of all, she lives life to the fullest and has a big heart."
- Patrick Mutangana Nkurunziza
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