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Refugee finds support needed to become citizen

Updated: Feb 1

Sandra Buzangu was born in the modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo and spent the first four years of her life amidst

a war-torn people who had been subjected to years of extreme violence. Life in the central African country was marked by brutality and fear. Fleeing became her family’s only option. With dreams of one day returning, they crossed over into Tanzania where a refugee camp became their new home for the next 14 years.

“These were dangerous years,” Sandra says. “It was a dark time when just surviving became a daily task. This was my early childhood.”

Sandra’s refugee years were marked by an infirmity caused by an accident when she was one year old. Unable to be taken to a hospital, she never received proper treatment. The injury to her right leg healed in a constricted manner. Malformed, she could not straighten or move it. While other toddlers were learning to walk on two feet, Sandra learned to walk using only her left leg, bent over and using her right arm, crawling creature like. It did not go unnoticed, and she faced cruelty into her teen years.

“It is easy to be broken by things that happen in your life—to question ‘why’,” Sandra confides. “I do not have answers, but God knows why everything happens, and that’s enough for me.”

The dream of returning home was slipping away like the familiar early morning valley fog dissolves into the day. The large number of refugees created shortages of food—competition was intense. Societal norms deteriorated and brutality crept back into their lives as rival groups reappeared. Domestic and sexual violence lurked in the shadows.

But from this hard- ship, a new dream took root. Sandra’s family

would come to America. Aided by World Relief, a Christian humanitarian organization which helps refugees to immigrate, the family began the process to leave Africa. They would leave behind all they knew where generations of their family had lived. With only what could fit in their baggage, they came to Winston-Salem in June 2015. Sandra was 18.

“I do not remember a time in my life when there was no death,” she says. “In America, I could go to sleep with no fear. I was happy.”

For six months, her parents and siblings were under the watchcare of World Relief. They united with a community of immigrants and became involved with a fellowship of believers. One year after arriving in America, Sandra had surgery on her leg. The doctors were able to straighten it but could not bring back its mobility. It was fused at the knee so she could walk.

“I could stand upright, with my head up. It was something I never thought possible.”

Her new life had its ups and downs. A failed romance and the birth of her son Fidel in 2020 made life overwhelming. The needs began to far outweigh her resources. She needed help. A friend referred her to Greater Vision Outreach (GVO) in Thomasville.

“Sandra needed to know there was someone in her corner,” GVO manager Sara Becker says. “She needed practical things like baby clothes and diapers, but she needed more. She needed resources and guidance—and that’s what we do.”

Sara supported her as she set goals, beginning with earning a high school diploma. But her new education and learning to speak English fluently could not offset the challenges of finding a job.

Despite the success of her surgery, she could not stand or sit very long because of nagging pain. A weaker person would have given up. To Sandra, it was just another challenge to overcome.

“Sandra is not a quitter,” Sara says. “She set her sights on her next goal—becoming a U.S. citizen.”

Sara encouraged Sandra, making sure she attended classes. She knew what passing the test and becoming a citizen of this country meant to her. Always positive, Sandra says, “I’m happy to be in America. Being a citizen of this country means everything to me.”

This past November, Sandra checked this important goal from her list. She stood with others seeking citizenship and gave her oath of allegiance, pledging to renounce any prior citizenships, to support and defend the constitution, and to be true to her oath...“so help me God.”

Sandra’s Congolese name is Kapinga. In America, she chose an English name—Sandra. In her language, it is “Sango” which means strong. Her story is a testimony to her strength. “Sandra has hopes and dreams,” Sara asserts. “She is determined. She just needed a little help—and someone to believe in her.”

How you can help people like Sandra through Greater Vision: Through the kindness of churches and individuals, Greater Vision Outreach clients are receiving a hand up instead of a hand out. Faithful supporters have given since GVO’s beginning, but needs remain high. Donations of clothes, furnishings, housewares, and food, as well as financial gifts, can be made by contacting GVO Manager Sara Becker at 866-904-0060.

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Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children

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