Congolese brothers arrive in Northampton

  • Congolese refugee Oliver, 26, is familiarized with his temporary Northampton residence April 5, 2017 following his arrival at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • David Etin, left, Amy Metzger, Susan Molano and Gary Felder, all of Florence, prepare to greet Congolese refugee brothers Oliver, 26, and Guylain, 23, who arrived April 5, 2017 at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. The brothers, who have been living at a refugee camp in Burundi, are the second refugee family to resettle in Northampton.

  • Catholic Charities caseworker Jowel Iranzi makes a phone call to figure out where to meet Congolese refugee brothers Oliver, 26, and Guylain, 23, who arrived April 5, 2017 at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. The brothers, who have been living at a refugee camp in Burundi, are the second refugee family to resettle in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Amy Metzger, left, and David Etin, both of Florence, prepare to welcome Congolese refugee brothers Oliver, 26, and Guylain, 23, who arrived April 5, 2017 at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. The brothers, who have been living at a refugee camp in Burundi, are the second refugee family to resettle in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • David Etin of Florence holds a sign welcoming Congolese refugee brothers Oliver, 26, and Guylain, 23, who arrived April 5, 2017 at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. The brothers, who have been living at a refugee camp in Burundi, are the second refugee family to resettle in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Congolese refugee brothers Guylain, 23, left, and Oliver, 26, center, are greeted by their circle of care members including Susan Molano, Susie Zeiger, Gary Felder and Amy Metzger, all of Florence, as they arrive at Bradley International Airport, Wednesday, in Windsor Locks, Conn. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Congolese refugee Guylain, 23, center, is greeted by his circle of care members including Amy Metzger, left, and Susie Zeiger, both of Florence, at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., where Gyulain and his brother Oliver, 26, arrived on April 5, 2017. The brothers are the second refugee family to settle in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Congolese refugee Guylain, 23, left, is greeted by his Catholic Charities caseworker Jowel Iranzi April 5, 2017 at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., where Guylain and his brother Oliver, 26, arrived. The brothers are the second refugee family to settle in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • David Etin of Florence, left, looks on as Congolese refugee brothers Oliver, 26, and Guylain, 23, load their bags into a vehicle to be transported to Northampton April 5, 2017 following their arrival at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Sandra Matthews of Northampton, left, looks on as Congolese refugee brothers Guylain, 23, and Oliver, 26, are shown around their temporary residence in Northampton with volunteer Manirakiza Jamari, right. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@ecutts_HG
Published: 4/5/2017 11:41:48 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Avoiding the escalators and instead opting for the stairs, the Congolese brothers made one of their first choices in their new American life.

Visibly exhausted from their travels, the pair made their way out of Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, Wednesday night surrounded by eager new faces of some of their Northampton circle of care.

The brothers, Oliver, 26, and Guylain, 23, are the second refugee family to move to Northampton. The young men made the journey to Massachusetts from Burundi. Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, executive director of Springfield’s Catholic Charities, said at the end of the March that they’ve lived in a refugee camp in Burundi, east of their homeland, for nearly 15 years.

The brothers declined to give their last names.

Their arrival makes them the second refugee family to arrive in Northampton since the start of the year. The first family, Jasimiyah Hussein and her sons, Yousuf and Ayoob Al-Dulaimi, recently moved into their apartment.

Before the brothers arrived, the circle of care as well as case workers from Catholic Charities had been busy planning. Outside the airport, six members of the group gathered to welcome the pair.

“It’s so exciting. All of us were saying, I can’t believe this is actually happening,” said volunteer Gary Felder.

He added that if the circle of care felt this way, he couldn’t imagine what the brothers felt. While those in Northampton have been waiting for months, excited for new community members, the young men had been waiting much longer.

“They’ve been waiting for this for 14 years because their life depended on it,” Felder said.

Buckley-Brawner said the brothers speak French and Kiswahili, but no English.

For months, the volunteer circle of care — who all live in two contiguous co-housing units on Florence Road — has been taking French classes and learning about Congolese cuisine in preparation for the brothers’ arrival.

From the start though, nothing would go according to plan. When the city of Northampton first announced the initiative to resettle 51 refugees, the talk in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign against refugees and immigration was just talk. Then, quickly following Trump’s inauguration, came two travel bans and court injunctions that temporarily blocked them.

“Emotions have been up and down,” said David Entin, co-leader of the volunteer group assigned to the family.

“We’re very excited,” said Amy Metzger. “We never thought this would happen.”

The brothers were expected to arrive at the airport via a van from John F. Kennedy International Airport around 6:50 p.m. As their arrival time came and went, phone calls went out to locate the driver and the brothers. Moving up and down the concrete median, holding signs and craning to locate the van the group decided to split up and check the departures area.

In a matter of moments, the van and the brothers were found. A hug was given, signs handed out and the brothers’ two small bags were taken off their shoulders as they walked back through the airport, down the stairs and into the vehicles waiting to take them to their temporary housing in Northampton.

Little is known about the brothers but the circle of care knew one thing for certain — the pair love soccer. In addition to stocking the fridge full of food, the volunteers purchased a soccer ball for the brothers to keep.

Looking on as their case worker opened the box, the two took a turn juggling the ball on their feet with smiles across their faces.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.


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