CULTURAL BACKGROUND: Meet Nshimiye Nshongore

This is the first of a series of stories about KCPS students who are recently resettled refugees in Kansas City. We believe that one of the best ways to make our partners and other readers understand the wonderful work we do is to share the stories of the young men and women that our department serves. For this month, we have chosen to share the story of Nshimiye Nshongore, the son of Congolese parents who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Rwanda, and who, along with his family, was recently resettled in Kansas City in 2014.

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Nshimiye Nshongore, whose name roughly translates to “Thanks to God” and “Dancing,” moved to Kansas City from Rwanda in 2014. He speaks Kinyarwanda and English, the latter language learned within one year of moving to the US and starting school. As a young kid who initially spoke no English, Nshongore struggled to make friends or communicate with anyone outside of the close-knit Rwandan and Burundian community in Kansas City. However, with the help of his teachers, and through regular communication with other students in school, Nshongore now communicates quite confidently in a language that he’s had no choice but to learn since moving to the US with his parents as a refugee.

Even though his parents are Congolese, having been born in Rwanda, Nshongore identifies as a Rwandan. He remembers the country of his birth fondly, pointing out that he still misses its surrounding mountains and the many trees that line its streets. Nevertheless, Nshongore is keen to state that he prefers the weather in the US because it changes; the weather here is “sometimes cold and sometimes hot,” unlike the Rwandan weather that is “constantly hot,” he says.

As expected, Nshongore’s initial experiences in his new home were difficult. Unable to communicate in English and therefore unable to make friends who didn’t speak his language, having difficulties figuring out how to ride the bus to school (or anywhere for that matter), and seeing his father struggle to pay the family’s bills because he had no idea how to do so, Nshongore saw the period following his family’s move to the US as one of “constant confusion.”

But even though the shock of being thrust into a totally different culture is still very much present, with the help of his teachers and his new friends at East High School, Nshongore is now able to ride the bus easily; he now speaks English almost effortlessly; and his father’s confusion has been greatly mitigated by the aid of a social worker from Jewish Vocational Services who is always available to help his family through their integration into the Kansas City community.

Nshongore’s ultimate goal is to one day become a doctor or a nurse. He is working on finishing high school by next year and proceeding to college, hopefully on scholarship. He says that with the constant support he receives from his friends at school, the Rwandan-Burundian community, his teachers, and the social worker , his transition to the US has become less stressful, and he’ll be able to achieve his dream of one day providing care for his patients as a doctor or nurse.

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