The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 83

WR ITTEN BY CHR ISTINA NIFONG

GROWING ROOTS IN ROANOKE
MOR E THAN 7,500 IMMIGRANTS AND
R EFUGEES CALL ROANOKE HOME,
INCLUDING BURUNDI R EFUGEE
E V E LY N E N Z I KO BA N YA N KA .

E V E LY N E N Z I K O B A N YA N K A
shuffles into the children's room of
the Raleigh Court Branch Library,
her four-year-old daughter Amida
Ramadhan bounding beside her.
She drops her bag, searches for a
place to plug in her dying cell phone
and settles on a child-sized ottoman.
" N o t h i n g c o m e s e a s y, " s h e
confesses in a sing-song lilt that
confirms English is not her first
language. "Sometimes you have to
fight with your life to get what you
need."
She would know. Nzikobanyanka
is a refugee from Bujumbura, the
capital of the central African nation
of Burundi. She has fled war, survived
with a young son in Tanzanian
refugee camps, then built a new life in
Roanoke - learning another language,
switching careers to find a job,
constructing a Habitat for Humanity
home, becoming a US citizen and
reuniting with her husband, lost to
her for nine long years.
And yet, Nzikobanyanka is aware
that she is one of the fortunate few.
Only a sliver of those identified by the
United Nations as refugees are given
the chance to start over.

TheRoanoker.com

"IT TAKES A LOT OF WORK, BUT YOU
CAN DO IT. ANYONE CAN DO IT,"
SHE ASSURES.

She stretches with a wince from
her too-small seat. Hours on her feet
are taking a toll on her back.
Nzikobanyanka works seven days
a week. Weekdays, she is a Carilion
Clinic interpreter. She speaks several
languages: her native Kirundi, as well
as French, Swahili, Kinyarwanda and
English. She translates as needed for
Commonwealth Catholic Charities,
as well. Every Saturday and Sunday
she feeds and bathes and moves and
cheers the residents at Our Lady of
the Valley as a Certified Nursing
Assistant in two 17-hour shifts.
She has two children, Amida, who
attends Head Start through Total
Action for Progress, and Patrick
Henr y High School sophomore
Ahmad R amadhan, who play s
varsity soccer and recently won
citywide recognition for his science
fair project.
She volunteers with Blue Ridge
Literacy, giving back to an agency
that helped her along the way. And
she worships at Masjid An-Nur
Islamic Center, Roanoke's mosque.
In short, she is a harried, working
mother who adores her children,
supports her community and prays
for more hours in every day.
MAY/JUNE 2019

83


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The Roanoker - May/June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - May/June 2019

The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Intro
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover1
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover2
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 3
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 4
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - 5
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The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover3
The Roanoker - May/June 2019 - Cover4
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