“To live under a dictator is like slavery. There is no justice. There is no peace. It is not a free country.” Over fifty years of living under a Congolese dictatorship was long enough for Ildevert Mboungou. In the Congo, Ildevert worked as a chef for the employees of a major oil company. The authorities found out that he was a supporter of the Democratic party, and the dictatorship that ruled and mistreated the Congolese people for decades took revenge. Ildevert had to leave his employment, home, and all he knew. He escaped his homeland and fled to America.
“I flew directly to Chicago. I did not know anyone. I was alone and deeply sad. I was living near the El train station. A man approached me and spoke my language. He told me he knew where I could get help and brought me to CCO. I do not know who he was.”
Homeless shelters do not exist in the Congo, and Ildevert was unaware that help was available or how to find it. This kind stranger took him from being isolated and living outside to CCO where he could find a sense of community, support, and help for the future.
“I came to CCO with only a plastic bag that held my Bible, documents, passport, and coat. That is all I had, but I was happy to find shelter. I met Franke, Andre, and Jeremy, and they made me feel welcome. I could have meals, clothing, showers, and a bed. I am no longer alone and outside. Coming to the shelter was extraordinary.”
During Ildevert’s stay, he worked closely with his case manager to access an ESL course at Truman College and certificate training in Food Service through a local non-profit. He became an active volunteer at the Kolver Center for survivors of politically sanctioned torture. CCO staff rejoiced with Ildevert when he received his political asylum certificate. Ildevert was reunited with his family when they came to Chicago, and they found a home. It has been a joy to see great things in Ildevert’s life.
- Ildevert Mboungou, as told to Beth Nicholls and translated by Franke Moukiama