Congolese Children Gain Humanitarian
Parole And Await Reunion With Parents Thanks To UNH Students And
Parents Now Living in Manchester
Were Forced to Flee Because of Civil War
Contact: Lori Wright
UNH Media Relations
June 8, 2004
DURHAM, N.H. – Seven children from the Congo separated from
their parents for two years because of civil war have been awarded
Humanitarian Parole thanks in large part to a year-long effort by
an anthropology professor at the University of New Hampshire and
her students, who were determined to reunite the family in Manchester.
“Thanks to your pertinent actions and your compassion toward
the most deprived, today we have the joy and courage to continue
the perpetual battle for life because, indeed, our dream has become
a reality. That is, the reunification with our children,”
Hubert Simwerayi said at a reception Monday, June 7, at UNH.
In the fall of 2002, human rights worker Simwerayi, a bank employee,
and his wife Helene, a teacher, were forced to flee the Democratic
Republic of the Congo without their children after militia seized
their city of Goma. While the parents waited several weeks to get
the money for their children’s flight out of the Congo, they
learned that the children’s visas had expired. A separation
that the Simwerayi’s thought would last only weeks has turned
Soon after they arrived in Manchester the Simwerayis were in church
praying for someone to help when they met Nina Glick-Schiller, an
anthropology professor at UNH. Glick-Schiller told her anthropology
classes about the Simwerayis' situation, which resulted in the forming
of the UNH Committee for Rights and Justice (CORAJ) in spring 2003.
Glick-Schiller and Kelli Swazey, a senior at UNH and head of CORAJ,
immediately began working to complete an application for Humanitarian
Parole, which would give the Simwerayi children legal immigrant
status in the United States.
“We were told from the beginning that Humanitarian Parole
is very rarely granted,” Swazey said. “There has to
be extenuating circumstances in order to make an exception to the
regular visa process. We were very lucky. There has been a huge
community effort, and the support from Marti Jones in Rep. Jeb Bradley’s
office has been crucial to this process.”
In addition, Glick-Schiller and the 20 students on the committee
began working with local charity Danny’s Team and concerned
citizens to gather donations for travel expenses and signatures
for a petition requesting the children’s visa applications
be moved to the top of the application list.
“The numbers show that people see injustice in the world and
want to make a difference, Glick-Schiller said. It’s great
to see New Hampshire residents reaching out to an African family
and saying, ‘We want you here with us,’ ”
Dudley Dudley, a Durham community activist who has helped coordinate
the humanitarian effort, said the response from the New Hampshire
community has been “phenomenal.” Local residents are
covering the costs of the children’s airplane fares, interviews
at the U.S. embassy and passports. The family has received pro bono
legal help from a Manchester law firm, assistance finding a larger
apartment, a discounted vehicle from a Manchester auto dealership,
and numerous donations of household items.
More than 700 community members signed the petition, which was submitted
to First District Congressman Jeb Bradley in April 2004. The committee
also has received support from Sen. Judd Gregg and Sen. John Sununu
to expedite the visa application process.
“From the first time that we sent out the petitions, we have
had an ongoing interest in the project. People have been very generous
and very eager to hear what’s happening,” Dudley said.
“It's quite amazing to see how hard people are working to
get the children here.”
As a result of these efforts, the children’s applications
were moved to the top of the application list and in the last few
weeks, they were granted Humanitarian Parole.
“We were incredibly pleased to have been able to assist in
the granting of Humanitarian Parole for Hubert and Helene's children,
and look forward to continuing to work with CORAJ and members of
the local community to make sure that this family reunion happens
as soon as possible,” Bradley said.
CORAJ, Congressman Bradley’s office and community activists
are working to bring the children to the United States from Uganda,
where they recently were moved after a cousin with whom they were
staying in the Congo was murdered. Danny’s Team paid the bus
fare for the children to escape to Kampala, Uganda, and for an apartment
there until they can immigrate to the United States.
“We’re just excited to be at the stage where we’re
planning to bring them home. It’s been a long process,”
Those wishing to contribute to the Simwerayi family should contact
Swazey via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORAJ also is seeking students, faculty and community members who
would like to help work on immigrant issues in New Hampshire.