#PartnerSpotlight: Bridge Refugee Services – “She’s always there for me.”
Editor’s Note: This post is shared with permission from Bridge Refugee Services. To learn more about Bridge Refugee Services and the critical services they are providing in Tennessee you can visit their website here: https://www.bridgerefugees.org/ To support their mission, click here.
Soon after they resettled in Knoxville, Therese Mukantu and Adolph Murhabazi began saving money to do something they never had the opportunity to do in their native Congo – buy their own home.
“When we came here, we didn’t have nothing,” Therese said. “If you want change, you have to work for it. If you have the mindset and you know what you want and what you’re looking for and have a plan, you can do it.”
After fleeing violence in their motherland, the couple lived in a Ugandan refugee camp for seven years before relocating to East Tennessee in February 2019 with their two children, Priscilla, now 12, and Plamedi, now 10, as well as Therese’s two younger sisters and a niece.
Bridge Refugee Services helped them find an apartment and jobs, enrolled the children in school and helped them with other new arrival services, including transportation until they got a car. Bridge volunteer Beth Chappelle was one of the first people they met when she drove them to the Social Security office. “There are so many clients that don’t speak English and it’s hard to communicate,” she said. But that wasn’t the case for Therese and her family, particularly Plamedi. “He just talked the entire time, the whole way to the Social Security office,” she said. “He asked, ‘Is it true in America that cars are made of gold?’ and just (other) off-the-wall questions. He was just full of them.” The drive became the first of many and the start of a friendship between Beth, a Bridge volunteer since 2018, and the family.
“I just really liked them off the bat,” she said. “I really tried to put myself in their place and think about if that was me, what would I want? What would I need? And I would want somebody to help me.
“We became friends and I tried to help out in any way I can. I wanted Therese to know she has somebody she can trust and if she has questions about anything or needs help, she has someone to go to.” Therese credits Beth with being instrumental in helping the family become homeowners. “I didn’t know anything,” she said of the mortgage lending and home buying processes. “I used to ask all the questions and she helped me so much because this is my first home in America and there is a lot of stuff that I had to know and she was my answer – every process, everything.” Beth praised Therese’s determination, positive attitude and hard work. “She sets such a good example for other refugee families here,” she said. “She and her husband both just work so hard. She has the best attitude about everything. She just does not give up and she’s so positive about everything. She has everything planned out. She knows exactly what she wants and it’s planned out step by step.” Therese said Beth’s support, patience and kindness eased their transition to life in East Tennessee.
“Beth is like my family, like my sister or a mother,” she said. “She’s always there for me, all the time, anything I ask her. I wish in America everybody can be like Beth for people who come from different countries. She is the example. I praise every day for God placing her with our family.”
With a house to call their own, Therese said she and her husband are now saving for their children’s college funds. She’s also set a goal to attend nursing school and is working to improve her English skills to pass the admissions tests. “In my future, I want my family to get a good, better life,” she said. “In Africa, there was no future for the kids, but here they have a future. Here is our home, so we have to make plans here and think for the future.”
To learn more about Bridge Refugee Services and the critical services they are providing in Tennessee you can visit their website here: https://www.bridgerefugees.org/ To support their mission, click here.
To learn about how you can #GiveWelcome to individuals working with EMM and our affiliate networks, click here.