Teachings from a Congolese refugee: FINDING the new you in troubling times

During this pandemic, we can learn a lot from Glo, a former Congolese refugee.

Glo has endured trauma and hardship, yet never lost hope. When faced with a circumstance Glo could not change, she adapted to her new circumstance by digging deep to FIND a new self that was best suited to that circumstance. She is doing this again in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Glo’s story. At age seven her mother was forced to flee the Congo for political reasons. Glo was placed in an orphanage. After three years, Glo was reunited with her mother who organized a smuggler to get them to London, via Egypt.

The smuggler took off with their money, and they were stranded and desperate in Egypt. Glo’s mother realized that to get residence status in another country they had to obtain UN refugee status. With help from the Congolese community they got to Thailand, hoping to obtain UN refugee status there. Refugee status was not recognized in Thailand so Glo and her mother were arrested. The African community helped to get them out of detention and to Hong Kong where they applied for refugee status. To survive, Glo and her mother worked long hours at any job they could find.

Despite their case being rejected in Hong Kong, they refused to give up hope and applied again. BINGO! Their tenacity paid off, and they were sent to Texas as refugees.

At this time, Glo was sixteen. Technically, Glo stopped going to school at the age of seven and started back when she was sixteen. After starting school in Texas, she realized she was way behind. She did nothing but study to make up for the lost time.

A Congolese friend invited Glo to Charlotte to sing and play her guitar at an event. She was an instant star and was invited to Raleigh. Glo fell in love with Raleigh, and in December 2012 Glo and her mother moved here.

Glo wants to help others. On a scholarship, she obtained a BSW and MSW from NC State. She currently works for a non-profit organization providing mental and behavior support to the immigrant and refugee population. Glo has a dream of doing private counseling, as well as starting a non-profit to help people in the United States and Democratic Republic of the Congo. She also hopes to write a book about her journey, entitled FINDING.

Glo’s wisdom learned through surviving years of hardship can help us all in our new COVID-19 circumstances:

  1. Never give up or lose hope. Accept your new circumstance and FIND the new you that can best get through it.
  2. Live in the moment because you will never get it back. Confront your fears by focusing on the present instead of worrying or feeling hopeless for the future.
  3. The greatest gift you can give to the world is to be the “real” you. Embrace it and the world will be kind to you.


Glo at her MSW graduation


Lesley Koustaff
For the Immigrant and Refugee Ministry Team