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stuff, and they tell us to move. They kick us out.” Mausa, her parents and nearly a dozen brothers and sisters fled into a nearby forest. They lived in the woodlands for three months. “There is no food, no nothing. We are just living like animals. Sometimes we get food from fruit trees … We drink river water, and we sleep on the ground,” Mausa said. Even in the forest, Mausa’s family could not find safety. She and her siblings lived in constant fear of encountering Rwandan militiamen. “If they saw you somewhere, they kill you. Many people died. The good thing was that nobody died in my family, but they were trying to kill all of us,” she said. Mausa and her siblings experienced none of the pleasures of youth. Their lives contained no formal education and no distractions from the dangers at hand. “We were just scared all day. We didn’t have anything. There, in the



MOHAMMED KHAMEES ’17 AT 8:05 AM, SITU MAUSA ’15 SITS IN FRONT OF A COMPUTER in her first period study hall and begins to edit her English homework. She’ll soon walk to the art hallway for a drawing class, and her weekend will be filled with family time at the mall and Sunday services at church. Mausa’s present and future mirror those of the vast majority of her classmates, but her past places her among a small but significant group of West High students who have endured unimaginable hardship to achieve what their peers consider to be a normal life. Less than ten years ago, Mausa lived in Nundu, a small village near the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Civil wars rocked Mausa’s childhood. When she was 11 years old, a band of Rwandan gunmen attacked her family’s home. “They try to get in, but we pass faster,” Mausa said. “They steal all our

forest, there are a lot of snakes; sometimes, they come close to us ... It was very dangerous. You can’t go somewhere to play because it’s just forest,” Mausa said. “We were just sitting together and waiting for something good.” AFTER THE RWANDAN GENOCIDE OF 1994, defeated militias fled to what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, the country has been a battleground for the armies and rebel groups of at least six African nations as well as thousands of foreign troops. Every year, armed conflicts force hundreds of thousands of Congolese citizens from their homes. Some of those refugees have, like Situ Mausa, found a new home here in Iowa City. Sophomore Masumbuko Omari’s path to Iowa was one of constant immigration. Omari escaped from Congo to Tanzania primarily on

foot. He then moved to Mozambique, Arizona and, finally, Iowa. Each new location presented Omari with a unique set of hopes and challenges. “Tanzania was safer than the Congo,” Omari said. “My dad found a job. He took me to school … I started playing soccer, and it helped me not to think about the hard things I had been through.” High rental costs soon drove the Omaris out of Tanzania, but economic concerns continued to dominate their lives. “Life in Arizona was hard. Some days there was work for my dad, but some days there was not,” Omari said. Mausa’s family followed a similar trajectory. After escaping from the woodlands, they found a ferry to Tanzania and sought protection as refugees. Approximately five years later, the Tanzanian government helped the Mausas fly to Texas. However, moving to Iowa soon be-

March 7th 2014  
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