Kenyan Refugees Shares Story of Immigrating to Reno

Eugene Nduwimana 

Eugene Nduwiwana shares the story of his family’s emigration from Kenya to the United States:

I learned that Reno would be my new home 30 days before my flight was scheduled to leave Nairobi, Kenya. In fact, I didn’t even know that I, my wife and two sons would be coming to America. That’s something many people don’t know about refugees: you apply through a resettlement agency, and your host country offers to accept you and then assigns you to a city. 

I’d never even heard of Reno because there are few refugees here. But my family was very lucky. The kind people of the Northern Nevada International Center picked us up from the airport carrying flowers. They helped us find housing and furniture and everything we needed. They showed us how to take the city bus and call 911 during an emergency. 

We took English classes at Truckee Meadows Community College, and all of us had jobs within four months. My wife works in a hospital as a housekeeper. One son works in a company that makes ventilators. The other works with me at a company that makes herbal supplements. There I was quickly promoted from assistant machine operator to the processing department.

Today, we are homeowners and will be eligible to apply for citizenship within five years. I’m still surprised how our lives could change so dramatically after leaving our embattled lives in Kenya. That’s where we had lived for nine years after fleeing the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I had managed to support us with a small barber and wig shop, but our family was targeted because we were refugees. After my business was looted and I was attacked, I began to fear for all our safety and applied for resettlement.

Living in Reno wasn’t easy at first, especially learning to live with winter. But now we can’t imagine living anywhere else. I’m glad the city will be accepting more refugees in the future, and I hope they will have access to the same generosity and services that we received. They helped us quickly transform from nervous and anxious refugees to proud and confident Renoites.

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