From Normal, to Desolation, to a Better Future

R.J. graduating from high school
Through the Catholic Charities St. Jerome Emiliani program, R.J. finally had a stable living situation, allowing him to excel. He graduated high school and earned a scholarship to Colby College where he is studying pre-med.

R.J.* is a typical college freshman now, but his journey from childhood to pre-med student was anything but normal.

Raised in Africa, R.J. had a tough childhood. He lost his father at a young age, and his mother’s living arrangements with different men proved unstable. In 2001, she abandoned her child, leaving him with her brother.

In 2004, his uncle and cousin were captured by rebels and tortured. His cousin’s eyes were subjected to fumes that affected his sight. After they were released, the family fled to Goma, a city in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His uncle and cousin sold beans to make a living for the family, but not for long. The rebels captured them again as they worked.

Fearing for the lives of his close friends, the owner of the bean-selling business decided to take the rest of the family to Bunagana, a different town. Later, a family member went back, paid money to the rebels, and R.J.’s uncle and cousin were released. The family reunited but decided to cross the border into Uganda where they hoped life would improve.

After moving to the settlement, R.J. did not attend school any longer because his aunt and uncle could not afford the school fees and scholastic materials. The family was overcrowded at home, and the food supply was sparse.

They applied and received approval to enter the United States to seek a better life. But R.J.’s uncle could not afford to care for him through migration into the U.S., so he applied for Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) Foster Care services for his nephew. Life was about to change again.

When R.J. arrived in the U.S. in 2011, he was placed in the Catholic Charities foster care program through St. Jerome Emiliani’s Home for Children. The program was able to finally give R.J. a stable living situation, and he remained with the same foster family from his arrival in the U.S. through his graduation from high school.

Now in a stable home, R.J. excelled academically and athletically; he learned English quickly, and played football, soccer and track. During the summer of his senior year, he received a pre-med internship at Maine’s Colby College. After completing the internship, he received a full Posse Scholarship with Colby College.

Your support for Catholic Charities services makes a lasting impact.  After graduating from the St. Jerome’s program last year, R.J. said this: 

“When I was in the refugee camp, I said to myself, they can take my home, they have taken my family, but they CANNOT take my future. Thank you Catholic Charities, for giving me a future.”  

This is what our work is all about – to help children, families, seniors and others have a better tomorrow – and is made possible by your generous support. 

Learn more about the St. Jerome Emiliani program and how you can help other children have better futures.

*name changed to protect privacy