Year in Review, 2019
The Nirere family, whose primary language is Kinyarwanda, spent 21 years in a Rwandan refugee camp. For four of the five family members, this was most or all of their lives. A host of medical problems challenged the adults’ ability to work. With Jeane’s translation help and the indefatigable spirit of their RAP family team, we helped the Nireres overcome these barriers. Meanwhile, RAP helped Jeane maintain her level of self-sufficiency through a very dangerous pregnancy in unsafe living conditions.
As the world prepares for the dawning of a new decade, let us reflect on the past year at RAP ---
A year of expansion: In January, the ESL/tutoring program was renamed Sunday Sharing. What started as an introductory ESL class had blossomed into a vibrant program of sharing sumptuous meals, sharing our skills and cultural knowledge, and sharing the hopes, dreams, and challenges of both volunteers and refugee families. Sunday Sharing evolved beyond ESL and homework help to include teaching drivers’ education, computer skills, medical terms, math skills, and how to find community resources for legal, financial and medical help.
In April, we began a New WhatsApp chat group to include all client families to help build community among families independent of volunteers.
In May, a generous grant from the Westfield Service League enabled RAP to send several school-aged children to 6 weeks of summer camp through the YMCA in Elizabeth.
A year filled with hellos….and goodbyes: In January, RAP welcomed Jeane Kamikazi and her two children. Jeane and her husband owned a successful salon and beauty supply store in South Africa. Death threats and the destruction of their shop forced them to flee and eventually land in the US. Jeane speaks many languages, including Kinyarwanda, which came in handy when we welcomed the Nirere family, also in January.
In February, the Ramazani family moved to Roanoke VA and met up with RAP alumnus, Alonda Amuri. Having never met, these two families shared a common experience in being helped by RAP. The Ramazanis joined up with Alonda’s family in a leap of faith and entered into a strong friendship and growing community of Congolese refugees in Virginia.
In April, RAP also bid a bittersweet farewell to Patrick Ndamiye’s family when they moved to Tennessee to reunite with family members. Patrick had referred 9 other families to RAP over a one-year period.
In June, Jeane Kamikazi and her children joined her husband in Maine and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. In that same month, RAP welcomed Marie Joelle and Marie-France from Ivory Coast.
By late October, RAP welcomed two more new families: the Chishimba family of 9, originally from DRC (Congo), who had lived in a Zambian refugee camp from 1993-2010. RAP also welcomed the Itaji family of five, helping the mother with medical issues and providing clothes, furniture, food and household items.
In mid-November, we came full-circle by helping the Nirere family move to Ohio. After nearly a year of building up skills and their health, their RAP family team prepared them with a final lesson series on navigating an airport. The NIreres reunited with friends in Ohio with patient exuberance.
A year of giving: The resources that RAP has to give come in many forms. This summer, the Rangala family received a donated car after their two adult children earned drivers licenses. In August, RAP established the Education fund and paid for school uniforms and
The Ramazani Family
The Chishimba family
supplies for three refugee students and a laptop for Divine R., who started at Mother Seton Regional High School. More students received drivers’ training as several volunteers kicked their road-time practice into high gear.
In October, RAP volunteers helped Aisha earn her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate. RAP helped underwrite car repairs for Richard R., the victim of a hit & run accident which severely damaged their donated car. RAP also helped with the Rangala’s green card application process and half of the green card medical fees.
In November, a collection began to gather art supplies for Marcel Chishimba. Also, soccer camp for John F. (made possible by a RAP member) concluded.
In December, the RAP family team for the Itaji's stayed with the mom in the Trinitas Hospital emergency room while she battled a high fever.
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RAP has had a roller-coaster year filled with joys, frustrations, tears and triumphs. We thank you for your support, encouragement, and shared experiences, all of which fortify our work together. May you experience enduring hope in the coming year for the building of a new and better tomorrow.
-the RAP Executive Board