After long journey, refugee calls Vt. home - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

After long journey, refugee calls Vt. home

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"I had dreams of being something in the future but with limited resources," said Mukiza Noel.

Limited resources because starting at the age of 14,  Mukiza Noel and his parents and siblings spent more than a decade fleeing from refugee camp to refugee camp, from Rwanda to Congo to Tanzania.  Eventually Mukiza, through the United Nations Refugee Agency, came to Vermont -- that was in 2007.  He was 29.  He would lead the way for other family members to join him.
"I remember when I came it was really a very snowy day.  It was on December 12th," he said
"I was at the airport the night that he arrived," recalled Judy Scott with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. "Mukiza got off the airplane and saw the snow and wondered what it tasted like -- was it salty? Was it sweet? If you have never been in snow you have no way of knowing."

The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program helped Mukiza with housing, connected him with services, and eventually gave him a job.

"In the five years, the first thing I did was work. I started working, then I went to school and my wife joined me. We reunited again and we had two kids, so until now I am still working.  I am going to school and I have a family," Mukiza said.

His determination and drive, Judy Scott said, is typical of the immigrant experience. "If you look at the statistics, immigrants are far more likely to start a business and hire employees than are native-born Americans and in fact immigration creates more jobs than are filled by the people who are immigrating," she said.

Mukiza's parents and several siblings have since joined him here as well and were on hand for the naturalization ceremony in Burlington Monday, when Mukiza officially became a U.S. Citizen.

Not only did Mukiza dream of one day having a country to call his own, he had another dream -- to sing the national anthem of the country that would accept him. Monday, that dream came true as well.

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