Photo of Promise holding American flag

Promise’s Journey: From Ugandan Refugee to U.S. Citizen

We celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20th to draw attention to the plight of the millions of refugees who have been forcibly displaced from their homes due to various forms of conflict, violence, and persecution. Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa) champions a clear message of compassion and solidarity for refugees, and we have the privilege to support refugees and other forcibly displaced people as they rebuild their lives in West Virginia.  Today we celebrate one client, Promise, who made the journey as a refugee from Uganda to a U.S. citizen in West Virginia.

Promise remembers January 19, 2018 so clearly because it was his first morning waking up in the U.S., and it was also his first time seeing snow.

“It actually snowed on the following day that I got here. I told my friend that I wanted to go outside and touch the snow and experience something new that I have never seen in my life,” said Promise. “Well I started jumping and looking up at the sky as the snow was falling on my face. I was excited. It was amazing!”

Promise celebrates his U.S. citizenship at his naturalization ceremony.

Promise’s journey to safety in West Virginia had not been an easy one. Promise experienced hate and persecution in Uganda just because of who he was. He made the hard decision to flee Uganda to seek refuge in Kenya. This meant leaving behind everything and everyone he knew. Promise waited three years in Kenya for approval to come to the United States as a refugee. He was selected for resettlement in West Virginia because he had a friend living in Morgantown. As CCWVa is the only refugee resettlement agency in the state, he was assigned to our agency and we started planning for his arrival.

Promise stepped off the small plane at the Clarksburg airport, and the next few months were a blur. Promise received health screenings, learned about American culture from volunteers, applied for American identification documents, learned how go grocery shopping, opened a bank account, learned how to use public transportation, and more. Within two months of his arrival, Promise started his first job, which was stocking shelves at Kroger.

Promise had always enjoyed caring for others, so he was really excited when he learned about an opportunity to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA). Within only six months in the U.S., Promise was working full-time as a CNA. Promise was still working as a CNA in a nursing home in March 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit.

“When COVID hit, it was a critical time and a very hard time for everyone,” said Promise. “A lot of people got frustrated. I stayed because I needed to help and they needed us to help. I was like, ‘I can’t quit. I need to go ahead.’”

Promise has now been in the U.S. for about five and a half years and is proud to be a U.S. Citizen!

“I want to thank all of the people who have been a part of my journey – the people who have stood with me through hard times,” said Promise. “There was a time I reached where I couldn’t sustain my life and I had a lot of problems, and many volunteers and friends stood with me and provided me motivation and encouragement and help. I want to give a lot of appreciation to Catholic Charities because this has been an amazing journey in my life.”

We congratulate Promise on his journey to rebuilding his life in West Virginia and becoming one of our country’s newest citizens.

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