In 1994, a dangerous group of rebels began a campaign of terror and genocide against the Tutsi people which destroyed millions of lives in Rwanda. After her sister was killed in the genocide, Esperance Chibalonza fled Rwanda with her four children and the three orphaned children of her sister in a dangerous bid to save their lives. Now 49, Esperance lives with her children and her sister’s children as refugees in Houston.
Leaving the only home you’ve ever known to venture to a new country to build a new life is a frightening experience, but also a hopeful one. It’s a chance to start over, and Esperance is now building a new life for her and her sister’s children. Despite the hardship, Esperance has found kindness and hope through Catholic Charities and their welcome baskets project. Each of these baskets contains towels and hygiene products to welcome refugees to the U.S. after their harrowing journeys. Esperance and her family are thankful to have received this gift.
“As a refugee who has fled violence and persecution to live independently again in a new country, I have learned…that basic personal grooming and housekeeping supplies is very important in the USA,” says Esperance Chibalonza.
Our culture contrasts with that of Rwanda, where 29% of the population doesn’t have access to clean water and 25% doesn’t have access to improved sanitation facilities (United Nations).
For a single mother of now seven children, Esperance was grateful to receive the welcome basket after learning the standards of cleanliness in the U.S. She did not want her children picked on in school, but didn’t have the income to buy hygiene products. With the help of Catholic Charities, she was able to provide her family with important essentials, such as soap and toothpaste.
Esperance says, “I want to thank Catholic Charities for the hygiene items and the household cleaning supplies.”
For Pope Francis’s Jubilee Year of Mercy, Catholic Charities created the welcome baskets project to aid refugees in desperate need of warm welcome and kindness. This Valentine’s Day, you can help “Share the Love and Welcome the Stranger” by putting together a medium-sized laundry basket full of hygiene products (see list below) for refugees in need. We will be collecting baskets February 10 through February 26.
Items may be donated to Catholic Charities on 2900 Louisiana Street, Houston, TX, 77006. Join us in welcoming refugees to their new home in Houston. Thank you for your support.
Welcome Basket Checklist
2 bath towels
2 hand towels
4 toilet paper rolls
2 bars of soap
1 tube of toothpaste
2 bottles of shampoo
2 bottles of conditioner