Denise’s Story: From the Congo to New York

Piece written for the Refugee & Immigrant Fund (RIF) on a program participant, Denise, and her experiences as a refugee in New York.

Growing Together

Denise is a refugee and asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation crippled by colonialism, ransacked of its resources — first by the Belgians, then by its own inept rulers — and fraught with ongoing conflict. A spillover of violence from neighboring Rwanda has plagued the eastern portion of the country for two decades, and has given rise to the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war; the area has been called “the worst place in the world to be a woman,” though men and children suffer, as well.

The emotional effects of the hardships one inevitably endures living in such a place are not immediately apparent in Denise who, diminutive and with an endearing smile, comes across as a sort of fairy godmother. I saw her eyes light up upon entering the greenhouse on her first day at the farm.

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