Elie says that it was the best moment of his life. His family are Banyamulenge, a minority ethnic group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They faced persecution and violence, and spent 20 years as refugees. They were forced to leave their home, a small village in South Kivu for a Burundi refugee camp, before they moved onto the slums of Kampala, Uganda.
Those were stressful times, with the family facing the uncertainty of never knowing where food, clothing or money would come from. Never knowing if they would be forced to move again, and always worried about their safety.
Elie found work as an English interpreter for other refugees, and was planning to become a motorcycle taxi driver – a highly dangerous job – when he found out he was going to Australia. “The battle of living your life where you don't know what will happen tomorrow, it's gone,” he says, of the family’s relief and excitement upon learning about their future.
After a long flight, Elie and his family arrived at their home in Wollongong. Red Cross was there to help the family settle into their new community. From everyday things, like how to use a microwave, to connecting them with doctors, social services and English classes for his parents, they were there every step of the way. They helped Elie’s brothers and sisters enrol in the local high-school, and supported Elie to get started at university, where he’s studying mathematics. He wants to be a teacher, helping others to learn.
Elie’s currently putting his interpreter skills to good use, working at the local council as an interpreter for other refugee families making the same journey as his. He talks to schools, helping to educate others on the refugee experience. He’s thinking about doing his Masters in mathematics, which he loves because it’s a universal language.
He also loves getting dessert with every meal, being able to make a snack whenever he’s hungry, and feeling safe walking around his neighbourhood, whether it’s at 2pm or 2am. Australia is his home.
“Today I'm able to dream and I'm able to keep following my dream...It's because of the kind of support which Red Cross gave me. It shows me how important it is to engage in the community, how important is this to be part of something which is going to last for so long.”