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“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. When it was found out that he was a supporter of the Democratic party the dictatorship that ruled and mistreated the Congolese people for decades began to severely abuse him. Ildevert was forced to leave his employment, his home, and all he knew. He had to escape his homeland and flee to America.
“I flew directly to Chicago. I did not know anyone. I was alone and deeply sad. I was living in the el train station and a man approached me and spoke my language. He told me that he knew where I could get help and he brought me to CCO (Cornerstone Community Outreach). I don’t know who he was.” Homeless shelters do not exist in the Congo and Ildevert was not aware 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 was able to have meals, clothes, showers, and a bed. I am no longer alone and outside. Coming to the shelter was extraordinary!”
Almost immediately, Ildevert told staff that he would like to volunteer in the kitchen. “Cornerstone helped me, I want to help Cornerstone.” His culinary skills have been put to good use and he does a magnificent job and among CCO’s shelter guests Ildevert has found friends. One friend helps him practice the english language and is a great source of encouragement.
Today, Ildevert’s time is filled and he does more than volunteer for CCO. He is taking a course at Truman College for English as a second-language. He has begun training to get a certificate in Food Service at Inspiration Corporation. He is an active volunteer at the Kolver Center for survivors of politically-sanctioned torture. We rejoiced with Ildevert when he received his political asylum certificate from the United States government. And we look forward to seeing great things from this humble, grateful and generous man. “I prayed and God remembered me and brought me up from my low place.”
Nearly 3 1/2 years has passed since Ildevert’s story was first posted. Ildevert’s entire family has joined him in Chicago. His children are enjoying a good education, Ildevert is employed and they have an apartment to call home. CCO is privileged to be part of Ildevert’s story and grateful experience his kindness and generosity of spirit. Refugees truly enrich our lives.
– Ildevert Mboungou, as told to Beth Nicholls and translated by Francke Moukiama