In April 1994, when Claudette Nshimiyimana and her twin sister were only seven, genocidal violence broke out in Rwanda. After a grenade hit their home, the family scattered. Claudette’s mother was able to gather all her children back together, except one.
Their family of seven started a long and perilous journey to a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the journey, Claudette saw how parents fought for their children: “Papers, jewelry, furniture or televisions weren’t important any longer; it was the children and how to keep them safe and secure that was on the forefront of the parents’ minds.”
When they arrived at the camp, the conditions were terrible. “What was most difficult for me at seven years old” Claudette remembers, “was that there was no longer access to an education. I wanted so badly to learn, but it wasn’t possible in the camp.”
In 2002, the family moved to Zambia in hopes of safety and a chance at education: “It was in Zambia that my twin sister and I met our first and possibly best English teacher.”
Then, in 2006, they received an opportunity made possible by caring people like you. Twelve years after leaving Rwanda, the family arrived in Rhode Island. “We knew that being a refugee in a new country like the United States was not going to be easy,” she said, “but my mother had one very important goal for her children: to continue our education. My sister and I we were able to enroll in a community college.”
Claudette’s goal was to prepare for a career in medicine. She wanted to go back to Africa and help people. “But I soon found out that the Rwandan community in Providence, RI was also in need of help, so my sister and I studied and worked to start an afterschool program for refugee children.” The program provides the tutoring and mentoring each child needs to succeed.
Today, Claudette is deeply grateful for the opportunities and welcome she received thanks to the concern and commitment of people like you. That kindness drives her to give back in her community. “Resettlement in the U.S. was a second chance at life for us. Our hopes were renewed and opportunities for success were opened up. We have enjoyed our life here and the promise that we can lead a dignified life which is rooted in self-determination, desire, and most importantly, to see the pride in our parents’ eyes since we have succeeded.”
Thank you for joining LIRS in welcoming migrants and refugees like Claudette! Together we’re providing education, opportunities, and empowerment to young people with a dream of helping others like themselves find success.