Esther Wivine: Refugee from Africa finds success in Utah

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Flags are waved to recognize fourteen new citizens at a naturalization ceremony that was part of Utah’s World Refugee Week celebration, in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.

June is Refugee Awareness Month. I came to Utah as a refugee at age 15. I would like to share my story.

My name is Esther. Esther was in the bible. She worked hard. She was a strong woman. She was brave.

I was born in the Congo. I have two brothers and one sister. I am the youngest. When I was 1 year old, my mom passed away after being poisoned. I lived with my aunt who was unkind to me, so my brother came and took me from my aunt, to Kampala in Uganda to the refugee camp.

We suffered a lot. We had no water and no food and people at the border took all his money. We had nothing. We lived in Kampala for about three years, where people would give us free food, and then we went to a refugee camp in Kyangwali. We continued to live together, but we suffered because the food was bad quality.

I lived with a Congolese family for eight years. The mother and father were kind to me, but the children were unkind. I came to America with this family. When I arrived, I was unhappy and so I told my case worker I wanted to leave this family. My case worker told me I could go to a foster program and that I would have an American family. I lived with a family who had a lot of kids and after about eight months I needed to move.

I was placed in a second foster home with a mom and one other foster sister. The foster mom was so nice, she taught me good things about America, about rules and about showing up on time. I learned many things from her, to be kind to others, to be respectful and to try hard. I learned a lot there.

I went to school. I studied hard and worked part time for three years. At work I learned how to paint and mow a lawn. My boss was so nice to me. I was able to work hard and buy my own car. My foster mom also had success through this time and got married. Now I have a dad, too. My dad taught me to budget my money, and to save.

When I came to America, the food was difficult to adjust to, the language was hard, the people were different, but my teachers were so nice to me. Now I am nice, and kind and I respect people. I like to help others who need help. I like to clean and keep things neat.

I have learned the language. I have made a lot of friends. I just moved to a new home, and I am independent now, working hard to pay rent and buy groceries. I listen to others and have learned to express my feelings. Someday I hope to have a family with my own children, and I may adopt children as well.

I like to keep things positive. I like to laugh and be happy. I enjoy going to the gym. I treat myself well and then I can treat others well.

In my future I want to learn to be a phlebotomist. I would tell others, even if life is hard, go to school and study hard. This is America. I did not know that I would graduate high school, but I did. I learned to work hard, get up in the morning and study and work. Do not give up.

Now I am going to get my certificate to be a phlebotomist. Next, I will go to the community college and I will be a college girl. I am just going to keep going! I am strong and brave like Esther in the bible.

Esther Wivine came to Utah as a refugee from the Congo and now lives independently in Salt Lake City.