Since April, Francois Banyeretse and Kamila Burgess both celebrated US Citizenship after years of working toward their goals
Proud to be Americans! This couldn’t be more true for the refugees and immigrants BHITC supports each year on their journeys to become American citizens. This year is a bit different, however, in that two BHITC staff members have now also completed their journeys to citizenship, and everyone involved is so proud!
Francois Banyeretse, a refugee from Rwanda, arrived in the United States in 2004 and has been on staff at BHITC since 2007. As part of his role, he serves as an African Refugee Community Worker to this population, connecting this community to our ministries, building relationships and interpreting, as needed.
Although prior to his arrival in the U.S., Banyeretse had already achieved a PhD in physics and the ability to speak seven languages, the process to become a citizen proved to be challenging for him. Juggling his new life in America with work, his wife and six children, it was one step forward and two steps back for many years in this journey, but he continued to work toward his goal.
On April 15, Banyeretse finally achieved his dream of becoming an official US citizen, and he did so with his son, Didier by his side. What a celebration it was!
Kamila Burgess’ citizenship story began in 2001 when she left Slovakia to attend college in the United States. She met her husband her junior year of college and began working toward becoming an American citizen, but also faced great adversity along this path.
As a young couple, they lost their home to a fire and their youngest of two boys was born with health issues, delaying her repeatedly in the long paperwork process of becoming a citizen. This year, she began volunteering at The Hope Center at the same time she was working on her citizenship application, and Eileen Wilson, BHITC’s Director of Refugee Ministries, worked with her to complete the final steps she needed.
On July 15, Burgess fulfilled her dream of becoming an American and finally had the opportunity to recite the ‘Oath of Citizenship.’
Kamila joined BHITC’s staff this spring as the Refugee Program Assistant, supporting the organization’s refugee ministries, primarily those at The Hope Center.
“I have such a heart for missions work, especially knowing the challenges moving to a new country brings. I began praying that God would show me how to use this passion, and He answered with pursuing refugee ministries through BHITC,” she says. “I am amazed at how God weaved so many pieces together to bring me on staff at exactly the right time, and I am so thankful.”
The Hope Center is located at 15135 Triskett Road in Cleveland. For more information about The Hope Center and volunteering at The Hope Center, visit http://buildinghopeinthecity.org/cleveland/the-hope-center/.