A Smile From the Congo


Posted at 8:03 AM, Apr 05, 2024 and last updated 6:52 PM, Apr 05, 2024

By: Michael Paluska (ABC Action News – copied Apr 8.2024 from https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/re…)

TAMPA, Fla. — The politics of immigration can be a polarizing topic in our country. But, there are powerful and positive stories, often overlooked, about refugees paving a path for themselves and others.

We sat down with one man who escaped persecution and war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to become one of the most admired and skilled employees at AquaCal Autopilot.

“Everybody teaches me what they do, so I like it here,” Mumbere said. “Being hardworking, I learned that everybody around you wants to smile. Everybody around you needs to hear positive things. You don’t have just to work. But you have to be a light. You have to bring the, you know, like the heat. For somebody who is cold, you have to give them a sweater. The sweater is like the smile.”

“He’s a beast,” said Gerson Martinez, Production Engineering Manager for AquaCal Autopilot. “I think the biggest thing is that he always has an incredible attitude. He comes in here every day with a smile on his face. He is ready to work, and he just brings others up. I didn’t know the story to begin with, but I learned later on, which makes it even more amazing.”

Mumbere’s story in America began in 2019, but how he got here is a tale of fear, survival, pain and loss.

“In Congo, it was tough because you don’t know if you will wake up. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” Mumbere said. “There is a tragedy which happened there. They took my auntie’s husband, so we had to run. She ran her away. We ran away, too. But the good thing is we met in Uganda, where we lived like refugees. That’s life’s true story. When we see it from afar, we think it’s just a movie, but for people living there, man, it’s a tragedy.”

“He’s one person, but is he really representative of all the refugees who come here and want a better life?” ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska asked Abdel Dana Roca, Director of Refugee Integration Services for Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services.

“I do agree. This is always what I say when they ask me what is the best way of helping those people who come over here. I say creating a hospitable and good atmosphere for them, being friendly and welcoming the stranger,” Dana Roca said. Dana Roca is now celebrating Mumbere’s success. Mumbere recently became a US citizen and was voted employee of the year at his company. “We’re so proud of him,” Dana Roca.

“How many people like Mumbere have you helped?” Paluska asked.

“Oh wow, through Gulf Coast last year, we assisted about 1,600 people,” Dana Roca said.

“1,600 lives changed,” Paluska repeated.

“Yes, this is only last year through my watch as the director,” Dana Roca said. “But Gulf Coast has assisted way more than the number. And of course, we as the refugee department are one pillar between seven other pillars that Gulf Coast has assisted the needy population.”

Mumbere was granted refugee status in Uganda by the UNCHR. That designation and the kindness of strangers changed his life. “I feel home. I feel like, hey, this is where I should be. Thanks to God and thanks to good people who created all of these things to help refugees,” Mumbere said.

“There is no limit in America; they call America a land of opportunity. So some people take opportunity for granted. Take no opportunities not for granted. Opportunity is something somebody has already paid the price for.”

For more information on how you can help Gulf Coast JFCS, click here. (gcjfcs.org)

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Through our programs, resources, and community partners, we assist nearly 40,000 people annually. One-third (1/3) of those we serve receive help from more than 1 program area.