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Refugees find home in America

Three members of a Fayetteville family last week became naturalized U.S. citizens.

Immaculee Kyondwa, her husband Joseph Mpinga and their daughter Lorina Mpinga took part in the swearing in ceremony held Aug. 19 at the Onondaga County Courthouse.

The celebration comes after living as refugees for six years in America. In the years before, the couple spent 20 years in Tanzanian refugee camps after escaping from their native country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"The Congolese government had nothing to do with them because they escaped," said Lois Spitzer, who was instrumental in bringing the family to the Jubilee House at the United Church of Fayetteville. "If they went back to the Congo, they would [have been] killed. The Tanzanian government would have nothing to do with them because they were Congolese, so they [stayed] in a United Nations camp. These people have [had] no country until today " they will get their U.S. citizenship and they will be Americans."

Lorina, a high honors graduate of Fayetteville-Manlius, relied mainly on her high school education in global studies and American history to pass the exam, for which she prepared in less than a week. UCF members Dorothy Harrold and Jackie Meyer tutored Immaculee and Joseph.

"I took longer to try to take the exam and Jackie Meyer helped me so very much," Joseph said. "I am slowly learning the English language, but in Buffalo, the test examiner told me I answered all the questions well and I was very smart," he exclaimed proudly.

Meyer said Joseph was on fire to become a citizen.

"He loves social studies," she said. "When we worked on his reading, he wanted to learn about Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. And he loves maps and could trace all the places he had been in the world. He studied every single day."

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