From Refugee Camp to College Graduate – Lucy’s Story


With the help of Catholic Charities, Lucy was able to graduate from Prairie View A&M University with a bachelor’s in nursing.

After the death of her father in 1997 Lucy’s family fled the violence in Rwanda hoping to find a better life in Zambia. Upon their arrival in Zambia, Lucy and her mother, two brothers, and two sisters were accepted into the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) program to receive assistance and protection. They stayed in Zambia for 13 years, being shuffled between refugee camps before finally settling in the Mayukwayukwa refugee camp where they lived for five years before coming to the United States. Life in Mayukwayukwa was hard, there were no jobs, and assistance from the UNHCR was scarce. To top it off, Lucy’s mother became very ill while in the camp.

Life as a refugee in Zambia was hard, to say the least.

On February 18, 2010, Lucy and her family arrived in Houston, Texas. They were given an apartment, and Andre Shango, a Catholic Charities case manager, was placed in charge of helping them settle in the United States. Mr. Shango helped to secure medical care for Lucy’s mother, and the congregation at St. Laurence Catholic Church began collecting donations to meet the needs of Lucy’s family. With the help of this dedicated community, Lucy and her family were able to begin working to regain a sense of normalcy.

After settling in their new home, Lucy began to express an interest in furthering her education. With the help of Catholic Charities, she was able to enroll in the HISD Refugee Program. Through this program, she was able to enroll in Houston Community College and begin working towards her associate degree. With this support network in place, Lucy was also able to train and work as an interpreter for Catholic Charities Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program, and provide care to her ailing mother. Balancing her family’s needs, her education, and her job proved difficult. However, Lucy was able to persevere. In May of 2013 she graduated from HCC with her Associates of Arts degree.

After completing her Associates degree, Lucy enrolled in Prairie View A&M to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She graduated in May 2016, and hopes to one day earn a Master’s degree in Public Health in order to work with HIV and other infectious diseases. In July 2016, Lucy married her fiancé, Garry, in a traditional wedding in Zambia. Lucy has this to say about her experience with Catholic Charities:

“I am very grateful to Catholic Charities for everything they have done for my family and for the assistance they have given us. I am now an American citizen thanks to your help with both my permanent resident and citizenship applications. I am particularly grateful for Andre [Shango] and Margaret [Ayot] who have always been there for me to help me and guide me. You have done so much for me and my family and I thank you.”