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From refugee to IRC caseworker: Dede’s story

Dede Shimiyimana was resettled by the IRC in Atlanta in 2015, after living with his family in a Ugandan refugee camp for 18 years. Now, Dede is one of our very own resettlement caseworkers, helping other refugees rebuild their lives and thrive, just as he has, here in Atlanta.

Dede has a gift for languages and interpretation, speaking seven languages in addition to his fluent English, including Swahili, Kinyabwisha, Kinyarwanda, French, Hema, Kinyankole, and Lunganda! Dede joined our team as a full-time resettlement caseworker this July, bringing with him knowledge, dedication and passion for helping others. We are so thrilled to welcome Dede into our IRC family.

Below is Dede’s story, in his own words.

We are so thrilled to welcome Dede as our newest Resettlement Caseworker!
We are so thrilled to welcome Dede as our newest Resettlement Caseworker! Photo: IRC Atlanta


My name is Dede Shimiyimana and I am married and blessed with five children. I was born in 1986 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Shortly after my 10th birthday in November 1996 I was forced to run from my home country to Uganda with my parents, two sisters and two brothers. Being in the refugee camp for the first time, I was between the devil and the deep blue sea.

While in the camp for 18 years, I continued my education from Grade 3 where I had stopped. It seems unbelievable to tell people now that I went to school under the rain, jumped swamps to get to school, and that I studied under the shade of the trees. My parents farmed to pay for my school fees and my other siblings. Even under the hard circumstances that we were in as a family, I was able to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Kyambogo University in Uganda. I was a middle grades mathematics teacher for seven years and also served as an administrative assistant for the Refugee Welfare Council for six years under the UNHCR.

My hope escalated when I was told that I was going to be resettled in the U.S. It sounded like heaven to me, as I knew I would get more opportunities to take care of myself and my family. When I arrived here in the U.S. in September 2015, I served in different capacities. I worked in housekeeping for eight months and then afterwards I worked three jobs at the same time. I worked as a sanitation technician, a case aide and interpreter at the IRC in Atlanta, and a part-time online interpreter with Neno Dynamix. At the same time I was doing a medical interpretation course through ALTA Language Services where I completed a certificate program in medical interpretation. Still on the way towards my goals, I will also be joining Georgia State University this fall semester.

Now I have been offered a caseworker position by the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta. It’s often out of the blue that an individual becomes a refugee, an asylee, an immigrant. The IRC understands these situations and that’s why they accept sometimes sleepless nights, instead focusing on serving those who are most in need of their help.

Last but not least, I would like to compliment both the International Rescue Committee and the U.S. government for admitting and supporting refugees, asylees and other immigrants to become self-sufficient. We shall not let the country down but will join hands to develop the economy to better everyone, since this is now our home far away from our homeland.

To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Alexis Buchanan, Development Manager at Alexis.Buchanan [at] Rescue.org () or 678-636-8930.

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