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Idaho Mentoring Program Supports Young Men in U.S. as Refugees

Moses Mukengezi, who manages the men's mentoring program, came to the United States as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Moses Mukengezi)
Moses Mukengezi, who manages the men's mentoring program, came to the United States as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Moses Mukengezi)
June 15, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- A new program in Boise is helping to guide young men who are in the U.S. as refugees.

The project run by the nonprofit group Economic Opportunity helps those who arrive in a new country.

The mentoring project helps men ages 18 to 25 with the transition into adulthood and American culture.

Project manager Moses Mukengezi understands the transition -- he came to the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of Congo as a refugee in 2007.

"Some of them come from single parent families or they're the only child or they're the oldest and they have to take care of their sick mom and siblings," he points out. "So having someone to be there to show you how you can get resources and how you can help out your family is really critical."

Although it was in the works before protests over police brutality and institutional racism, Mukengezi says the program's mission is especially attuned for this moment. It approaches mentorship through an anti-racist, equity-focused lens and most of the mentees are men of color.

Hubert, who prefers to go by his first name only, grew up in a refugee camp in Zambia and is 23 years old. He's participating in the program and hopes to learn more about owning a business.

Hubert says he and the other mentees are proud to be in this country.

"We want to be a part of our community and we also want to do the best we can to contribute to anything we can to having a better a community," he states.

Hubert says he wants the mentees to teach the mentors about the mentees' experiences as well.

"To open that door of conversation and offer understanding and for them to learn about you as well -- I feel like that's going to bridge the gap," he states.

Mukengezi understands the role mentors can play because he had a mentor when he arrived in the U.S. Mukengezi says he would call up his mentor when he needed help finding a job or just to talk when he was going through a hard time.

"He was there to comfort me and just be a friend and a guide and a teacher to me," Mukengezi relates. "So I think these young men will get that same opportunity with one-on-one mentoring in this program."

Disclosure: Economic Opportunity by Jannus contributes to our fund for reporting on Early Childhood Education, Poverty Issues, Social Justice, Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID