High School Football Scores

Church Offers African Refugee Children Chance at Better Life

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- In the basement of a Des Moines church, young lives are forever being changed.

Every Saturday Nancy Mwirotsi goes to different housing projects picking up about 20 kids. She calls them her kids and brings them to the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. Here they learn computer programming from volunteers. What makes this so special is every one of these children is a refugee of a war torn African country.

“I have known some of them since they first came to this country.  So I`ve been able to see them grow,” said Mwirotsi, program developer.

She wants to see them flourish, but that`s not easy.  Many of these kids come from extreme poverty.  They have endured the trauma of war and there are cultural differences now that they`re here in the states. They road ahead is tough and most of these kids should never go to college. Mwirotsi wants to change those odds, especially with young girls.

“We come from a culture where girls are expected to be married young.  So sometimes we go to their homes and we find the girls are the ones feeding the family. (They are) Taking care of the younger siblings. Nobody is insisting that girls need to be educated,” says Mwirotsi.

Every one of these kids must maintain a 'b' average or better to be here.  Today, one of Mwirotsi`s students had to miss class. He was being punished for staying out late last night partying.  Mwirotsi and her volunteers are hurt.

“Am I wrong in saying you guys are going to be like the first people who probably go to college in your whole entire family?  Am I wrong in saying that?  Don`t you want to be successful?  So please do not break my heart because it`s broken a little this morning,” said Mwirotsi.

For these volunteers, the children have become family. The help they offer extends way past this classroom.

Moisem Tuombemungu, 16-year-old, is a refugee from Congo. After  talking with him, you would think he is much older.  He`s inquisitive and remarkably bright. He will be graduating high school a year early. One day he would like to be a Christian pastor or maybe a journalist.  Dreams he would never have had in Congo.

“I`m now involved in reading. I love writing. And I think that will take me very far.  And I think I would have probably be illiterate if I stayed there,” said  Moisem Tuombemungu.

Mwirotsi wants to see all of these kids succeed. That`s what keeps her going. “Do you know the first message I got this morning?  It`s actually on my facebook post.  I got a text from one of my kids and she`s like Oh, I got a 3.625 GPA and I`m hoping to push it to 4.0.  And you know, I`m excited.”