Congo escapee joins incoming freshmen

Whitworth University sends out letters of acceptance to new students all over the world. This year, a letter of acceptance was sent to the home of Wilondja Muyoma, a 19-year-old living in Seattle. Muyoma, like many other prospective students, came to visit the Whitworth campus last November and fell in love with the university. He attended a few classes and said he was very impressed with the school.

“I visited several other colleges but my experiences at Whitworth were so different and unique,” Muyoma said.  “And as I did more research on the school, I saw what an amazing job they are doing in academics and I wanted to go there.”

He is now looking forward to studying philosophy and economics and perhaps taking a few French classes.

Muyoma is soon planning to pack up his things and make the trek from Seattle to Spokane.

The transition should be quite easy for him, for his journey to Whitworth began in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Specifically, he has traveled from the city Bukavu in Eastern Congo.

Muyoma’s native tongue is Swahili, but at the private Christian school he attended he mostly spoke French. Muyoma said that in Bukavu everyone lives in a tightly knit area. He said everyone is so close that he would consider the members of his community to be like relatives. He cared deeply for his friends and family.

Muyoma’s home was directly affected by one of the deadliest wars in Africa’s history, the Second Congo War. A peace treaty was signed in 2003 but fighting prevailed in the eastern part of Congo. When Muyoma was 12, the war that brought malnutrition and disease was forcing young men to join the army and leave their families.  All of those conditions became too much for Muyoma and he decided it was time to leave.

“Congo is pretty close to Rwanda, so we decided just to run there,” Muyoma said. “But along the way, my parents got lost and we were separated.”

There is estimated to be nearly 3 million refugees across Africa who have fled their homes due to violent conflict and persecution. There is a program established in Kenya that is designed to help reconnect families that might have been separated during the war. After nearly three years of searching for his family, Muyoma learned his parents were located back in the Congo.

Not wanting to risk going back to Bukavu, Muyoma was taken to an overcrowded, English-speaking refugee camp. Mapendo International, also known as RefugePoint, is an organization that happened to be visiting Muyoma’s camp at that time. RefugePoint goes to Kenya to assist families and individuals fleeing war who need urgent and lifesaving help. The foundation works with the United States and the U.N. to identify durable solutions for people in danger.

“The camp was such a blessing, because Mapendo International was there and offered to take me to America,” Muyoma said. “They offered me safety from the Congo and a chance to study in America and get a real education.”

The youngest of the group, Muyoma was the only one under 18 to travel to America. He and several others left Nairobi and flew to Europe, then to New York, and finally to Seattle.

“It was a very long flight, but just knowing I was going back to school made it worth it,” Muyoma said.

Muyoma settled into his new home in Seattle and quickly taught himself to speak English fluently. He said when he came to America he was excited to learn about business. So, he applied for an internship with Microsoft in the summer of 2011 and was one of 20 finalists accepted into the program.

“I had no clue what it was going to be like,” Muyoma said.

Muyoma was put into a group which would focus on the social aspect of marketing in the U.S. He worked with real Microsoft clients and learned persuasive marketing skills to get people to buy his products.

Muyoma then decided it was time to start a new chapter of his life. He was accepted into Whitworth’s Act Six program and is excited to move to Spokane and live on campus.

“When I visited I really liked East and Duvall,” Muyoma said. “But as I researched more, BJ looks fun because it’s all freshmen and it’s a close and tight community, kind of like my home was in Bukavu.”

 

Story by Jennifer Ingram Staff Writer

Photography by Corey Hage, courtesy of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide  

 

Contact Jennifer Ingram at jingram13@my.whitworth.edu.

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