From Conflict in the Congo to Cycling the Cascades

will-4A year after arriving to the U.S., William found himself riding a bicycle up the steep roads of Mt. Rainier.  It was the beginning of a 400 mile journey he was taking to help other refugees like himself.  Years before, William and his younger sister and their aunt fled ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They had fled to Uganda, but living as refugees was not a permanent solution for the small family. In Uganda, William studied English and looked for the little work that was available; the family waited.  They were waiting for a chance to move to Seattle and a new start.

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William riding along the 400 mile journey to Spokane – Photo Credit: Nathan Hadley

When William, his aunt, and sister arrived to Washington, they stayed with a local family in a Host Home before their own apartment was set up.  Later he was introduced to Sam, a student at Seattle Pacific University (SPU), who met with him each week to practice English and share their culture and lives with each other.  That wouldn’t be William’s last connection to SPU.  After improving his English in classes at World Relief, William got his first job in the U.S. and rode a donated bicycle rode to and from work every day like a true Seattleite.
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William’s bike-riding skill got him an invitation to join the second annual SEA-TRI-KAN: Ride for Refugee Employment bike team.  SEA-TRI-KAN riders travel from the World Relief Seattle office to our office in Tri-Cities before finishing the journey at World Relief Spokane.  Riders raise support and awareness for refugee employment in Washington State.

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A selfie moment with an SPU teammate – Photo Credit: Avery Parducci

Several of William’s teammates on the ride were from SPU’s cycling club.  They championed the cause of refugees on their college campus leading up to the ride.  Many of their classmates have been matched as Cultural Companions with families like William’s.  Toward the beginning of the ride, another rider noticed William struggling to navigate the gears on a newly borrowed bike.  Once that issue was fixed, William quickly shot to the front of the group.  William’s contagious smile and optimistic demeanor helped motivate the team all along their tough but rewarding ride. 

William,
Thanks for being an inspiration to all of us and helping to give other refugees the best opportunity to find their first job in America.

World Relief invites you to ride with refugees in 2017.  To learn more about SEA-TRI-KAN and how to ride or support a cyclist, please visit www.worldreliefseattle.org/stk

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