November 18, 2018


New Hampshire Refugee Community Pick [Up] the Pieces After a Tragedy (Leah Willingham, 11/18/18, Concord Monitor)

Butonga Zawadi's younger brother, Shabani Zawadi, knows the exact date his family moved to the United States: Feb. 11, 2016.

It is a date that's been ingrained into his memory -- the date that he, his parents and his four siblings left the Tanzanian refugee camp where they'd been living for 20 years before moving to snowy New England.

Sitting on a couch in his family's apartment in the Concord Heights neighborhood, wearing a shiny jacket and black sandals, Shabani, 22, admitted that Concord wouldn't have been his first choice for relocation -- he doesn't like the weather and there's not much of a social life. But he said anything is better than the refugee camp, where none of his family members could work and they lived in poverty.

Kigugu said most people who come from refugee camps are used to living in small tents, without electricity, and almost no access to health care.

"They need to start over, learning everything -- how to switch the lights off and on, how to clean a house, how to use a vacuum, how to live with other people," he said.

In the year and 10 months since his family arrived in the United States, Shabani has been able to get his own apartment and work -- first at Walmart in Concord and now at Harvey Building Products, a company that makes windows and doors in Londonderry, N.H.

When he worked at Walmart, he met Nelly Uwituze, who had worked there for almost two years after coming to the United States. As fellow Congolese refugees, they became close, Shabani said.

Many members of the African community know one another in Concord -- 600 people from Africa who live in the city now worship and socialize together, Shabani said.

"As Africans, we are all friends," he said.

Shabani's sister Zawadi, 25, was the only one who was old enough to remember anything about the Congo. She was around three when they left; Shabani was an infant.

Zawadi celebrated the culture through her love of traditional Congolese choir music, her brother said. She made food for herself, her 2-year-old son and her six other family members every night at their apartment off of East Side Drive. Her favorite food to make was ugali, a cornmeal porridge.

He said his sister was a hard worker who would do anything for her family. Sometimes she would help him pay rent when he needed it.

Posted by at November 18, 2018 7:33 AM