What do you look forward to during the holiday season? For me it is spending time with my family, “going home” and celebrating traditions. This year holds even more special meaning, as it will be the first time that I get to experience the season through my newborn daughter’s eyes. There is something about being a parent that gives you a new perspective.
As a new father, nothing scares me more than the fear of not being able to provide a warm, stable home for my daughter. Papy and Maria Kikongo share that same fear for their four children. Unfortunately, their fears were realized this past year. The family was forced to flee their native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, due to rising violence and religious genocide. After months of traveling, the family made their way to Cedar Rapids. They were safe, but had no place to call home.
I met Papy and Maria this spring, shortly after their arrival. Our community partners at Catherine McAuley Center, asked if we might have room for the couple and their children at Family Promise. At Family Promise we believe that every child deserves a home. We said yes without hesitation. With the fear of having a place for their daughters and son to sleep at night relieved, Papy and Maria were able to focus their efforts on learning English and working to obtain work permits so that they might be able to get jobs to provide for their family. They shared meals with our volunteers and were welcomed as new members of our community.
We are fortunate in our community to have countless individuals and organizations that come together when called upon to help families — like the Kikongos — in their time of need. After spending five months with us at Family Promise, Papy and Maria were recently able to move into their own apartment in time for Thanksgiving.
Having a place to call home is such a simple, basic need. For the families we serve at Family Promise, it is a need that is unmet. Until they enter our program, parents spend each day not knowing where they will tuck their children in that night. But, what we do through your support at Family Promise is so much bigger than providing shelter. It’s about welcoming families as members of our community — showing them they matter.
Papy and Maria and their children have a home for the holidays this year. A stark contrast to one year ago when they were preparing to flee their native country with no idea of when or if they would ever find home again. We want to ensure that Family Promise of Linn County is able to continue to help families in our community when they need us. To do that, we need your help. Please consider a gift to Family Promise this holiday season. No gift is too small. On behalf of the families we will serve in the year ahead, thank you in advance for your support.
John Paul Derryberry
“We are so thankful because our kids are able to go to school, we are able to eat and drink and we have clothes. Family Promise is a blessing to us.”
— Papy Kikongo