Lutheran Community Services Northwest
2018 Christmas Appeal
Jean Paul became a refugee before he was old enough to know what a refugee was. From the time he was 3 years old, he lived with his parents and seven siblings in a refugee camp in Rwanda, after fleeing violence in their native Congo.
Jean Paul went to school at the camp, and excelled from a young age, but the camp’s school only went to the ninth grade. High school cost money, and his family was living on 24 cents a day. They ate one meal a day, walked up to two miles for water and had no electricity. Young Jean Paul thought this was a “normal” life.
Fortunately, a local refugee agency provided a scholarship that allowed Jean Paul to attend a boarding high school. He did his best to hide the fact that he was a refugee, and made the most of his opportunity. By the time he graduated, he was the number two student in all of Rwanda. The top 50 students received scholarships to study abroad, but not Jean Paul, because of his refugee status.“I wasn’t like any of the other kids,” he said. “Being a refugee was something negative. It meant you were weak and couldn’t do anything for yourself. You didn’t have any rights.”
After a difficult year back at the camp, another nonprofit organization awarded Jean Paul a scholarship to attend college in Rwanda. Eight months into college, his family found out that they were relocating to the United States. They had a mere four days’ notice before they left for Portland, Oregon in 2014. That’s when we met Jean Paul.
“It was the best transition working with Lutheran Community Services,” Jean Paul said. “I thought it would be a lot more difficult.”
The family dealt with a language barrier, with Jean Paul the only member of the family proficient in English. At 20, he had to lead, navigate and negotiate for his family. He enrolled in Portland Community College. When school and family commitments conflicted, he called his LCS case manager, also from the Congo, who speaks Jean Paul’s native language. She helped him with things like scheduling doctors’ appointments for his parents and enrolling the family in health insurance.
After a year of study, Jean Paul earned an internship with the owner of a local engineering firm, who introduced him to the President of the University of Portland. The President was so impressed, he awarded Jean Paul a full-ride scholarship to study electrical engineering. Upon graduation, he completed an internship at Intel, and has now transitioned to a full-time role with the company as a test development hardware engineer.
Jean Paul’s family is thriving. His parents are working. Two siblings are in college studying mechanical engineering and computer science. Others are also in school.
Through these successes, Jean Paul remembers where he came from. He appreciates eating three meals a day, and not having to worry about meeting his family’s basic needs. He is grateful for the connections LCS has helped him make, and hopes to pay it forward to others from his home country. More people from the Congo have arrived here, and Jean Paul hopes to lead and inspire this community.
Jean Paul has risen from the ashes of violence and trauma, to build a full and successful life in a new country. But, there are so many other refugees still struggling to find their way. When you support Lutheran Community Services Northwest, you give families like Jean Paul’s a chance to succeed and become powerful contributors to their new communities.
This work is life-changing. But, we can’t provide the support and services that helped Jean Paul’s family without you. Please send a generous year-end gift today to help the most vulnerable members of our community.
Thank you for making health, justice and hope possible for so many. I am deeply grateful for your partnership.
President & CEO