Five Congolese refugees expected to arrive next week, complete Ngoy family

  • Congolese refugee brothers Edouard, left, Guylain and Olivier Ngoy talk about their Thanksgiving plans last November from their Northampton home. The rest of the family — their parents and three younger siblings — is expected to arrive from a refugee camp in Burundi next week. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 1/31/2018 11:54:57 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When Olivier Ngoy first told his brothers the rest of their family would soon be coming to Northampton, they didn’t believe him.

“The first time, they said it wasn’t true,” Ngoy said in French. “I said it was true and I showed them the text message. That is when they believed they would come.”

Ngoy and his brothers Guylain and Edouard are three of the 12 refugees who now call Northampton home. Olivier and Guylain arrived in April 2017 and Edouard arrived in November. The men’s parents and younger siblings still remained in the Bwisa neighborhood in Burundi where the family had lived in a refugee nieghborhood after fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002.

Olivier Ngoy received the news that his father, mother and three younger siblings — two boys, 14 and 5, and a girl, 18 — would arrive via a recent text message from his father.

“I cried,” Ngoy said. “I didn’t expect they would come. I didn’t have this idea that they would be able to come quickly.”

Since learning the news, Ngoy says he prays often that the days will pass quickly so his family’s arrival is soon.

The wait between the brothers arrival and the rest of their family was a surprise, according to Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, executive director of Springfield’s Catholic Charities. They are scheduled to arrive on Feb. 8, Buckley-Brawner said.

“We anticipated that they would come into our pipeline very shortly after the brothers did, but it took months for the third brother to show up, and it took about nine months for the family to finally show up in our pipeline and they only showed up in our pipeline in December,” she said. “That was sort of a surprise to us that it took so long for what seemed to be very natural ties.”

Sharing the news with the brothers and their Circle of Care, as well as the Circle of Care who will receive the rest of the family was met with excitement, Buckley-Brawner said. Circle of Care groups are volunteers who offer to help refugees transition to life in Northampton.

“There really was this anticipation that sometime, somehow, the rest of the family would make it here,” Buckley-Brawner said. “The brothers are just really excited to be reunited with their family and the Circle of Care is just really happy to be of service.”

When the family arrives, Ngoy said the first thing he hopes to do is cook an African meal and catch up on all that has happened in the time that has passed since they were last together.

For the brothers’ Circle of Care, the news is equally as exciting as they know how important family is to the Ngoys, explained David Entin, leader of the Co-Housing Circle of Care. Entin recalled a recent service at Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence in which information was gathered and shared from all the refugees in Northampton about their past and present and what they envision for the future.

“Olivier had said it was his dream for the family to come to Northampton. I was sitting there thinking with the Trump administration it wasn’t going to happen. Two days later, we found out the rest of the family was coming,” Entin said. “I was very moved. He didn’t say U.S. He said Northampton. It’s a special community and I think he is aware of it.”

Entin said that since the brothers arrived in April, the entire community has shown an outpouring of support.

Resettlement in the Valley

When Catholic Charities announced in January 2017 that refugee families would be settled in Northampton, the plan was to host 51 people, or about 10 families, from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq and possibly Afghanistan. Their arrivals were expected to be staggered throughout 2017, with about five refugees arriving each month.

In that year, 17 people arrived to Northampton to be resettled. One family, a mother with four children was transferred to Boise, Idaho, where the woman’s sister lived. There are 12 refugees — four families — in Northampton. All but three of them are originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I think overall the plan hasn’t changed,” Buckley-Brawner said. “It’s the amount and the frequency of arrival that has changed.”

One thing that has changed, Buckley-Brawner said, was the amount of refugees from Syria and Iraqi. One Iraqi family has been settled in Northampton and another family in Chicopee.

“We did not see the kind of movement in the Syrian and Iraqi population we thought we would, in that we specifically said we were open to those populations, and that movement just never happened because of the tightening of all of the travel bans, and the security vetting that has gone into place. That really just didn’t pan out in the same way,” Buckley-Brawner said.

In fiscal 2018, which began on Oct. 1, 2017, Catholic Charities has confirmed they have the capacity to accept 50 refugees to be resettled in Northampton.

“How the Northampton resettlement fits into the whole global piece is here we are. We are doing our part. As small as that may seem right now, and as frustrating as that may seem because it seems so little, but for those who manage to get through, there needs to be places like Northampton and the people of Northampton who are willing to do and accept and help people create a new life for themselves here,” Buckley-Brawner said. “I think sometimes there just needs to be these bastions of welcoming communities because sometimes the rhetoric doesn’t feel very welcoming.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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