Janvier Tuyishime: Excerpts from a resettled refugee's journal
Janvier Tuyishime fled Rwanda in 1999 after Rwandan Interahamwe militiamen entered his house to kill him. He fled to save his life, ending up in Krisan Refugee Camp in Ghana. Conditions were extremely harsh physically and psychologically, but he managed to cope thanks to "good people, some at UNHCR Ghana, then at the U.S. Embassy and the Church World Service Overseas Processing Entity in Ghana."
Janvier Tuyishime on the job with United Home Healthcare trainer Rhonda Geiger.
Photo: Mike Fender for U.S. State Department
Janvier Tuyishime fled Rwanda in 1999 after Rwandan Interahamwe militiamen entered his house to kill him. He fled to save his life, ending up in Krisan Refugee Camp in Ghana. Conditions were extremely harsh physically and psychologically, but he managed to cope thanks to “good people, some at UNHCR Ghana, then at the U.S. Embassy and the Church World Service Overseas Processing Entity in Ghana.”
Tuyishime was referred to the U.S. refugee program and was accepted. His case was assigned to Church World Service, which arranged for his resettlement to Indianapolis, Ind., through its affiliate Exodus Refugee/Immigration, Inc. The following “journal entries” are excerpts from Tuyishime’s regular e-mails to CWS and the U.S. State Department.
March 26: Exodus staff welcomed me today at the Indianapolis airport. They escorted me to my residence and placed me in the nice house. Immediately they led me to the market to buy everything I like. I appreciated that! The next day they came just to help me relax. They came again to visit me, look where is my church, assess my new needs, orient me and inform me on everything.
April 15: What I heard in Cultural Orientation in Accra was just a foretaste. Now I am having the experience. I notice Americans are kind and helpful. I see that in the food market, streets, churches, English classes, offices, restaurants, entertainment places. I notice the government’s promptness to issue documents and the sponsor’s fervor on behalf of refugee newcomers.
June 20: Today we celebrated World Refugee Day at Waterman Farms. Exodus conducted the day’s activities. My volunteers Ed and Madonna Hankee from Saint Pius X Catholic Church noticed the dynamism and welcoming spirit of the Exodus staff. They had never heard of Exodus until this year.
July 19: When I arrived in March the English lesson was very exciting with the modern methods. The things and realities we are learning, we are tasting them in the class and that helps us keep the lesson in our minds. The teacher brought the fruits for us, taught us what to call them and we experimented the tastes. So we are learning by experience.
August 13: Ten years ago, I got the arm injury tendonitis in my original country. The pain came back while I was working in the landscaping company called Engledow Group. The company and my volunteers have done their best to encourage me, but the pain continued and I decided to leave the job. I am getting medical treatment: massage, exercises and medicine.
September 17: The refugees in Krisan Camp continue to cry to me for money. Their conditions are not better: hunger, poverty, jobless, illness, despair, stress, marginalization, contempt, anxiety, vulnerability, trauma, degradation. I have sent small money in the past. Nowadays I cannot because I have financially urgent projects. If durable solutions can be found quickly, I am sure everybody can be happy. When the refugees tell me about Krisan Camp, I remember all the people who wiped away my tears when I was crying. At 2 p.m. my friend Ed Hankee is going to teach me to drive. Last week I passed the written test.
November 3: I just finished the first Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training class today sponsored by Exodus. Everything is fine. I still explore America’s social beauty. Everywhere, every fact is amazing.
December 20: Three hours ago, I was out to enjoy the snow. It is the second time I experienced it. The snow is not harmful as I was thinking before coming to the U.S. The friends I have made in Indianapolis liked to joke with me, exaggerating, “Did you see the snow? It can reach here!” I panicked! But now I can say that the snow beginnings are nothing. “The snow of January/February and the cold are terrible!” they say. But I have a lot of the protection items they gave to me. They are nice people. The Americans like to joke. I like it. I am also learning to do it.
March 1: I am very glad to let you know about United Home Healthcare, the agency that hired me in February!
After completing CNA school, I applied for a job with many agencies. None hired me. Sometimes after the interviews, I was told to wait, if they are interested they will call me. Meanwhile I had to pay the bills and get the money to cover other living expenses. It was becoming hard.
Then I contacted United Home Healthcare. The staff called me to take the application form and fill it. After the reception got it from me, I expected to go back to waiting to be called, but I was told not to leave, the interview was going to be conducted!
Janvier Tuyishime speaking with Amy Gale, Human Resources Manager at United Home Healthcare.
Photo: Mike Fender for U.S. State Department
Somebody directed me to meet the human resources manager. The person was concerned about my life as a newcomer to the United States. I was asked to prepare some documents for my file, and when I went back to the office with them the staff took me for orientation. After the orientation, I went back home.
The same day, around noon, the telephone rang. It was a call from United Home Healthcare saying I can start the job the next day!
March 26: I am very glad to share with all of you the happiness I have today. I am celebrating the first anniversary of my new life in America.
To celebrate this day, I am very happy to express my thanks and gratitude to the U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana, where I met the great people who came to help me restart my life. I remember the UNHCR people who understood my concerns and took care to cooperate with the U.S. Embassy to provide me the durable solution I needed.
The one year I have just completed here in the U.S. has not been trivial. I met CWS’s Exodus Refugee Immigration staff who showed me the same spirit, welcome and hospitality I met at the CWS/OPE in Ghana. The resettlement basics and support that CWS/Exodus, volunteers, friends and the church provided me are impressive.
I have great friends (let me use the expression "brothers and sisters"). I acquired skills, completing nursing assistant training and driving school with licenses. I got jobs, first at Engledow Group, then at United Home Healthcare where I am working today.
One year passes, the results are positive, some of my dreams and aspirations upon leaving Krisan Refugee Camp have been achieved. The second year that I am starting will be more fruitful than the first, I am sure. I will have to make more effort. Life itself is the road. Also, I can say that it is the project. As we know, to finish the road and to accomplish the project is the result of the support of friends, brothers and sisters. That is the reason why I will still need to work with all of you.
October 1: I continue to work full time for United Home Healthcare. It is a very nice agency to work for! The staff are very compassionate and concerned about all dimensions of the patient. Their hearts go out to the patients to understand and respond to their concerns. They provide both physical and emotional care. They work for the total wellness of the patient.
In addition, United Home Healthcare cares very well for its employees and supports them to be successful. They are flexible, kind and understanding of their employees. They are not autocratic with their employees, but rather treat them as equals. They have reached out to me, a newcomer to this country, to integrate me. So, let me say. “Good job to all of you, to everybody and to the American nation.”
See also: In the "country of the generous people"