Road to freedom for Congo refugees comes through VIVE in Buffalo

Local News

BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) For the past ten days, VIVE, a Buffalo shelter for people seeking asylum, has been hosting a hundred people from Africa who are trying to gain citizenship in either the United States or Canada.

Their journey took them from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa by plane on a work visa to Brazil. They say the most dangerous portion of their trip was in Panama, and eventually they arrived at the US Mexico border before VIVE agreed to accept them, according to Anna Mongo, chief program officer of Jericho Road Community Health Center, which operates the VIVE program. “They’ve been describing it as the death road, and talking about how dangerous it was, how a lot of people died of sickness.”

“Panama’s forest is not safe. Actually, there are people over there that used to kill people, frighten them,” said Ribaribe, a Congo refugee. He told News 4 through an interpreter that he was a doctor in the Congo and would be happy working in the medical field, but what’s most important now is safety. “After a long journey, a tiring match, I’m feeling like I’ve reached the objective.”

It is clearly culture shock after a long journey. “Honestly, the kids are more resilient than the parents,” said Mongo. “I mean they’re running around happy. They’re playing soccer in the hallways, and you know, I think they’re very much looking forward to the next step. I’ve heard the parents say ‘It’s like I can take a deep breath again, and I can find a feeling of peace.” 

Some of them will be living at VIVE, on Wyoming Avenue in Buffalo, for months, maybe even years before even having the chance to plead their case in court for permanent asylum status. So in the meantime VIVE, a program of Jericho Road needs donations

“Our primary need is financial donations, followed by food donations. We’re primarily looking for rice, beans.​​​​​​​ Our primary needs at this point are financial and food,” said Mongo.

You can found out more by visiting the website for Jericho Road Community Health Center.

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