Audio Recording of Interview
Originally from Rwanda, Napoleon discusses work, overcoming loss, and finding his way to Kentucky after fleeing the Rwandan genocide. He describes his experience moving to many countries before arriving in the U.S., losing his mother and siblings, the therapeutic impact of faith throughout his journey, and eventually working for the Kentucky Refugee Ministry, where he helps refugees of various faiths.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Napoleon Akeyezu
Content Warning: Sexual assault, death, violence
Summary: Originally from Rwanda, Napoleon discusses work, overcoming loss, and finding his way to Kentucky after fleeing the Rwandan genocide. He describes his experience moving to many countries before arriving in the U.S., losing his mother and siblings, the therapeutic impact of faith throughout his journey, and eventually working for the Kentucky Refugee Ministry, where he helps refugees of various faiths.
Topics: Multiple Displacements, Religion, Prayer, Family
Section One (0:00-14:45)
Multiple Displacements - Due to the genocide in Rwanda, Akeyezu left for Congo in 1994, returned for two years, and then had to leave again. He went through several countries including Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, and Germany, before coming to the U.S.
Religion - Rwanda is majority Christian. He was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school.
Violence, Prayer - He spent one night hidden in bushes and their group was attacked the next morning, with many people killed. Akeyezu prayed to God to never be in such a situation again.
Family - Akeyezu’s brother attended a Baptist church school and was studying to become a priest. Akeyezu eventually lost his mother and siblings.
Section Two (14:45-22:45)
Community, Journey, Religion - He made his 3,000 mile trip from Rwanda to South Africa by foot and bus. He didn’t have time to join a Christian community until he arrived in Capetown, and it did not matter to him if he went to a non-Catholic church, as long as he could give thanks to God and pray. He considers it a form of therapy and remembrance for the loved ones he lost.
Immigration Process - To get refugee status and continue his studies, he decided to travel to Europe. It was a more convoluted process in South Africa.
Religion - He joined a Christian community in Germany and had his two children baptized. His church took care of him, treating his family with compassion, helping them recover lost documents, and being interested in his story.
Section Three (22:45-35:55)
Work - He used to teach French at the University of Louisville.
Immigration Process, Cultural Adjustment - It was spring (his favorite season) when he arrived in the U.S. He had wanted to come ever since he learned about the country and its promise of freedom in school. He first came alone but intended to earn enough money to bring his wife and three children later. People’s welcoming smiles here especially struck him.
Resettlement, Work - Coming on a Green Card, he was not guided by resettlement agencies. However, his friend introduced him to the church pastor in Dayton, Ohio, who showed him a small shelter at the parish where he could live while waiting for his family. He helped out around the church and they helped him financially.
Work - Within three week, he started working in a factory in Marysville as a product inspector. He would work for twelve hours, with a total of four hour commute time.
Immigration Process - In three months, his family arrived in the U.S.
Education - After receiving his Masters, a professor recommended that he become an adjunct.
Work, Family - He would drive between Dayton, Ohio where his family lived and Louisville, Ohio where he worked in the university. The family later moved to Louisville where they have been for ten years.
Section Four (35:55-48:48)
Community - The Rwandan community in Louisville helped his family move in.
Work, Religion - He found a part-time job as an African consultant with a Catholic church organization. For one of their programs, people of all faiths would get together and pray for victims of war and violence in Africa. He met many compassionate people through it.
Family - In November of 1996, Akeyezu’s mother, sisters, and nephews died and he prayed that their bodies would be recovered. In 1998, his brother was killed.
Religion - These tragedies caused him to doubt himself and whether he was praying enough, rather than doubting God. He has tried to teach the importance of faith in difficult times to his children as well.
Section Five (48:48-1:00:28)
Work - He found it difficult to work at an airport warehouse while completing his studies.
Home - He considers home to be where you feel peaceful and accepted, and where you can participate and give back to the community, which in his case is Kentucky.
Family - His wife is a nurse, which made COVID more concerning to their family. He was at a training in Thailand when he found out the first COVID case in Kentucky was at his wife’s hospital. He also had to quarantine upon his return and it was difficult to be apart from his family.
Religion - It was unfortunate to not be able to attend church during lockdown.
Section Six (1:00:28-1:12:13)
Work - While working for Seven Counties, Akeyezu had to mediate between two leaders of the Burundian community regarding how to use a grant. They eventually started ESL classes for community members.
Conflict - His time in Thailand showed him different ways people deal with conflict, which he also uses when arguments come up within his own family.
Work - One of his main tasks as a case manager for Kentucky Refugee Ministries has been helping refugees of different faith locate their respective places of worship nearby.
Section Seven (1:12:13-1:20:10)
Work, Trauma - It is sometimes difficult for the refugees he helps at KRM to talk to him, especially women from the Congo who have been sexually assaulted. In such situations he uses his own experiences, bringing up the circumstances in which his mother died. He considers KRM a family.