The Nibitanga Family Story
Ezechiel and Yoranda are both refugees from eastern Africa. Since their move to the United States in 2015, they have gotten married, welcomed a beautiful son into the world, and have tried to find a place to call home. After finding Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity, they are excited to have a place for their son to grow up, and a safe place they can all call home
The Nibitanga Family story starts in the countries of Burundi and Tanzania, both countries are in Eastern Africa. Ezechiel was born in the year 1986 in Burundi, Africa. In 1993 his family was chased out of Burundi by a rival tribe, and they found themselves in a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After Ezechiel’s family was tragically killed, he settled in the Mtabila Refugee Camp in Tanzania. He stayed in this camp from the years 1996-2012. Yoranda, Ezechiel’s wife, was born in 1990 in the Gatumba refugee camp. When Yoranda was seven years old, her family moved from the camp that she was born in, to the Mtabila Refugee Camp in Tanzania—the same camp that Ezechiel was living.
Ezechiel described his time in this camp as, “Happy, because I was not involved in the war.” The camp offered schooling for those in it, but it was impossible to leave the camp. Ezechiel explained that if one was to leave the camp and get caught, then they would receive six months in prison. The streets were made of gravel and large rocks, and the air was extremely dusty. After 8 o’clock at night, everyone was ordered to be in their homes. They used cooking oil to fuel their lamps at night, as they did not have any electricity or plumbing. Because the camp was so small, everyone knew each other and became family. It was a small community—everyone knew everyone.
In 2012, both Ezechiel and Yoranda were moved to the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania, patiently awaiting their move to the United States. Ezechiel described the treatment in this camp as “being treated like dirt.” The officials were jealous of those in the camp, as they would be leaving the country to live in the United States. They were ultimately treated like the enemy for the three years they lived there, but it all became worth it in 2015 when they were approved by the High Commissioner for Refugees to come to the United States. Ezechiel said, “It was the best news anyone could have received.” Everyone in the camp was given the option of going to the United States or staying in Africa because the country was now at peace. Ezechiel explained to them that the people who had killed his family knew he was still alive, and that he would also be killed if he returned to Burundi. He was then approved to immigrate to the United States.
Later in 2015, Ezechiel and Yoranda were settled in the US. Although because they were simply friends before their move, they resided in separate states. Ezechiel found his home in Aurora, Illinois, and Yoranda was with her family in Lansing, Michigan. Ezechiel realized that he wanted to be with Yoranda, so he called her and asked her to be his girlfriend. They married in September 2017 and welcomed a beautiful baby boy in June 2018.
With their growing family, they soon realized that their one-bedroom apartment would no longer suffice. After moving to the United States, Ezechiel was in touch with other immigrants from the same country as him, which is how he met Theo and Odette Uwamahoro, who are Fox Valley Habitat homeowners. Theo and Odette explained what Habitat had provided for them, and that they provide affordable housing for those who qualify. Ezechiel and Yoranda asked their families and friends what they knew about Habitat, and they learned that Yoranda’s relatives live in a Habitat home in Buffalo, New York. Ezechiel explained that it seemed like everything was falling into place, and that they were lead to Habitat as their place to find somewhere to call home. They attended a homeowner orientation in October 2018. They learned that Habitat seemed like it would be perfect for their family. With their nerves at an all-time high, the Nibitangas sent in their application for a home in November 2018.
After their application went through and was approved by the first committee, Julie and Barb from the Fox Valley Habitat office went to do the home visit. Ezechiel and Yoranda explained how nervous they were because of their current living situation. The home visit was a success, and the Nibitanga family was approved for a Habitat home. Barb called the Nibitanga family one morning and shared with them the good news. Ezechiel described this feeling as one of the best ones he had ever felt. Both Ezechiel and Yoranda cried with happiness and celebrated with their son. The thought of becoming homeowners made them speechless. Their son currently does not have room to play, and they both explained that having space for their son to play and grow will be one of the most exciting parts. The Nibitanga’s are excited for a place to call home, in their new home of the United States. Ezechiel states, “Just working with Habitat families and getting to know each other is a blessing. Thank you, Habitat for Humanity, for making our dream come true.”