The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City resettled Sifa and her parents in the summer of 2016. Originally from Congo where many of her immediate family members still remain, Sifa attended some school, but when she arrived in the United States, she still had a few years of high school remaining to complete and a limited understanding of English. These obstacles didn’t get in the way of Sifa’s dream.
As she puts it, “I was not talking to anyone, I was just quiet, because I didn’t speak any English and that was so hard for me.” In Congo, many of the schools teach French - a language Sifa still speaks fluently. The language barrier is an obstacle many refugees face when they first arrive, especially if they don’t know any English. But Sifa refused to let this get in the way of her goal of completing high school and progressing to college.
After her first summer in the U.S., she enrolled in high school as a junior. She met with the school counselor to determine what she needed to do in order to graduate on time with her class. However, when the school received her transcripts from Africa, they realized Sifa still needed 24 more credits to graduate. This was a turning point for Sifa, and she took her situation in her own hands, deciding she would do whatever was necessary to finish on time. She enrolled in night courses to complete her language arts, math, history, and computer tech credits. Sifa worked extremely hard to finish all of her necessary coursework and graduated on time with her class: an incredible accomplishment for her and an important step on her journey of enrolling into college.
Sifa was ready to tackle another one of her dreams: attending college. But her dreams were nearly derailed when her family here in Salt Lake decided to move. Sifa was torn—she loves Salt Lake, but also knew she would not be able to stay on her own. Thankfully, a family friend from her community stepped up and offered to host Sifa, cost-free, while she attends Salt Lake Community College. Sifa feels grateful to have people in her life that care so much about her.
Sifa is passionate about her own education, and she hopes to one day return to her home country and make a difference for the people there. After Sifa finishes her education here, she hopes to save up a little bit of money, and return home to put her skills to use and make a difference for her fellow Congolese. With her ability to speak four different languages—French, Lingala, Swahili, and English—Sifa hopes to pursue special needs education and international studies. She is closer to her dream now than she has ever been. She knows, one day, her hard work will pay off, and she will fulfill her dream of making a difference for her home country.
Sifa would like to use her story to help people. She says she plans to write a book someday to document her life and journey. But she also adds, “Before someone helps you, you need to help yourself. You just have to work hard and believe in yourself that you can change and do something.”
Learn how you can support refugees like Sifa on their path to success by visiting Rescue.org/VolunteerSLC and signing up to volunteer today!