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Cleveland State student helps refugees from Africa transition for life in the States

Posted at 7:56 AM, Mar 06, 2017

In the past month, there's been a renewed focus on refugees and immigrants, thanks to President Trump's now delayed travel ban.

That spotlight is bringing to the forefront the troubles immigrants and refugees have fitting into a whole new culture and learning a brand new language.

Swahili. That's the language Victoire Pilipili is used to speaking from growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Oh my English not that good,” she laughs about.

But it's been improving, thanks to founder of the non-profit organization Advocates for Peace — Mayale Ngemba,

“I saw the struggle that many people are going through, many refugees in our community and I just couldn't hold it no more," he said.

So, the 23-year-old student at Cleveland State University has started his own organization, reaching out to refugees, mainly from Africa, to help them transition.

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“When your refugee you don't have a choice, you don't have a choice, it's up to the UN to send you, all you need is a safe place," Ngemba said.

He first started with passing out clothes and food, and now has veteran refugees and volunteers teach incoming high school students and families how to read, write and navigate through American culture.

“They get stuck. You find people have been here, some families have been here for more than two or three years but they still don't speak English," said Ngemba.

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Coming to the U.S. as a refugee himself in 2011, he knows firsthand what it's like to be in their shoes and wants people to know they have options.

“Yeah, I feel the pain, they just need a friend,” he said.

What he's doing, Baldwin Wallace professor & UN consultant Thomas Uthup says, is exactly what's needed, especially with the possible passing of the travel ban in sight.

“It’s not national policy that makes integration, it's local people. We can really make the difference," he said.

But Ngemba isn't stopping with just helping other refugees, he's making his voice heard. Once President Trump's now delayed travel ban was announced in January, he joined protesters in Cleveland and at airports around the country, making his voice heard.

“I’m trying to do when I can do to change this community," he said.