The life of an immigrant is not always easy. Before and after the transition to their new country they can feel alone in an unfamiliar setting. The help of other people can lessen this burden and help smooth the transition. That is the work of the Wellness and Empowerment Center in Fargo, North Dakota.
Recently we sat down with Brigitte Bisimwa, an employee at the WE Center and asked about her life and moving to America. Her story was one of perseverance and overcoming obstacles. If Brigitte’s story inspires you in any way please consider volunteering your time and energy towards this great cause.
There are many opportunities in America that cannot be found in other countries. One local woman and her family felt the pull of the American Dream and made the long voyage to America. They fled from corrupt governments, a bloody civil war, and a weak economy in search of a better life in a far off land. They faced many hardships, but resettled in the Fargo-Moorhead area. She is now working to better herself and help other immigrants in her community through their trials.
Brigitte Bisimwa was born into a large family in the Congo. She had mom, dad, nine sisters, and four brothers. Brigitte expressed a love for her family in the Congo.
Life was not always easy in the Congo “You just survived with what you got” Brigitte commented. There were volatile politics, fighting with rebel groups, an unstable economy, and a high rate of HIV. Due to these facts of life, Brigitte and her family decided to leave the Congo in 1998. Her family moved to Kenya where they lived in a refugee camp.
Brigitte and her family faced unique challenges in the refugee camp. There was a gross lack of privacy. “You neighbor can come to your place anytime” Brigitte said. Her neighbors would often come to her if they did not have enough food.
Brigitte’s time in the refugee camp was always meant to be a stop on her journey to a better life. After staying in the Kenyan refugee camp for 9 years, Brigitte, her husband, and their children began the immigration process to the United States with the help of a member of the Fargo-Moorhead community.
It is easier to get into the United States if you know someone who is already living here. Luckily, Brigitte’s family knew Dr. Kevin Brooks who is a professor at North Dakota State University. Dr. Brooks is an activist with the New American population in Fargo. “We gave the name of Kevin Brooks, he is a nice person” Brigitte said.
“We got to know each other well enough that he [Brigitte’s husband, Jacques] identified me as an “anchor” in the United States, and that seemed to help the family’s resettlement process” Dr. Brooks said.
Once Brigitte settled in Fargo, Kevin Brooks contacted her about a group he was helping to start. This group would act as a support for refugees and new Americans in the Fargo/Moorhead area. This group was titled the Wellness and Empowerment Center.
Brigitte now works for the WE Center. She gives assistance to lots of immigrants in the Fargo-Moorhead area as they start their new lives in the United States. Brigitte helps families find local housing according to their income. She also informs immigrants on the specific laws in the United States that may vary from their native countries. Basically, she helps immigrants in whatever way she can.
The WE Center is a fantastic program that truly touches many lives in the Fargo/Moorhead area. The WE Center offers tutoring services to local immigrant families. They tutor students from elementary to adult on a wide variety of subjects.
Brigitte stated rather profoundly, “There is bread in America.” This quote is a testament of the reach of the American Dream even outside the United States. “I don’t see why people complain because I see that you can improve yourself. You can feel safer because there is no shooting, no rebels. You have less fear for your own life,” Brigitte said.
If Brigitte’s story inspired you in any way to lend a hand, you can get in contact with the WE Center by calling (701)-478-3636. Also, consider following New American Consortium on Facebook
Written by North Dakota State University English students Randi Haarsager-Neary, Nicholas Miller, and Cordell Wagner