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WATCH: Boise Refugee Reunites with Family after Five Years Apart

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IRC Boise caseworker and Congolese refugee Dauda Balubwila hangs back behind the crowd, quiet and composed as he waits to see the family left behind in Kenya more than 5 years ago. Coworkers hold welcome signs and crane their heads for a first look at the much-anticipated arrivals. The crowd begins cheering and Balubwila slowly strides forward, raising his rose-filled arms high overhead, a smile spread wide over his previously unreadable face.

Balubwila and staff at the International Rescue Committee in Boise had long been waiting for this moment. Working with IRC Boise Director Julianne D. Tzul, Immigration Supervisor Rabiou Manzou, and through the IRC network, Balubwila waited years for the paperwork to be processed and the application for a family reunification to be approved. Only three months previous to August 2nd, Balubwila finally received confirmation of his family’s resettlement date.

Eleven-year old Jeff runs first out of the gate, thumping into his father’s chest with such enthusiasm that a burst of crimson petals flutter to the ground. The youngest, Samantha, soon joins Jeff in Balubwila’s arms, their father beginning to cry and burying his head between the two children. Balubwila looks up to grab his eldest daughter, Jacqueline, holding the trio close as onlookers cry and cheer in equal measure.

Refugee Family Reunite in Boise
Balubwila embraces two of his children, Samantha, 8, left, and Jeff, 11, right. The roses Balubwila brought for his wife scattered on the ground as his children ran into his arms. Photo: Kyle Green, Idaho Statesman

Elizabeth, Balubwila’s spouse, watches as her husband holds their children, before walking into Balubwila’s continually expanding arms. Finally, husband and wife have embraced and the reunion is perfectly complete. The group steps back, rubbing one another’s shoulders, wiping away tears, and smiling ear-to-ear.

A week later, Balubwila interrupts his vacation to stop in at IRC Boise’s office. He seems a changed man, walking taller, laughing louder, a weight lifted from his shoulders. A fellow caseworker asks how he is, how his family is, and Balubwila grabs the coworker into his signature bear-hug: “I am so happy; my whole family is so, so happy!”