“It was night. If they found anyone they were going to shoot them. We fled. We left everything.”
It was December 1996. The rebel army of Kabila advanced through Congo, terrorizing towns and killing innocent citizens along the way.
Amnobe Pilipili was only 10 years old.
Now, over 20 years later, she shares about the night her life changed forever.
She, her parents, brother, and eight sisters escaped on foot, and began an arduous three-day walk to North Congo, which they expected would be “a little safer.” But the war was widespread, and the North was not exempt.
Amnobe’s dad used the little money they had to take a boat across Lake Tanganyika to the Nyarugusu refugee camp, in Tanzania.
“It was sad,” she shares, timidly, “To leave home is not good. Cry all the time.”
Life, in the camp, was hard. Overfilled and under-resourced, families struggled to meet basic needs. Amnobe and her dad began selling goods to provide for their growing family. He would go to neighboring cities to purchase shoes, which she would then sell to residents within the camp.
Amnobe spent seven long years in Nyarugusu. She married a fellow Congolese man, and together they had a son. When her husband longed to return to his village, Amnobe agreed to follow, taking along one of her sisters. They returned to their home country, only to be upheaved once more– but this time would be more devastating than the last.
War soon returned, as is life in Congo. Brokenhearted, Amnobe cries quietly while sharing about what happened next. While they were fleeing, their son got lost in the crowds. They searched for him to no avail. That was the last time she saw her son, who would now be 11.
The couple was blessed with a second child– this time, a baby girl. Together the family resettled in Nairobi, Kenya, where Amnobe learned to fix hair for a living.
Meanwhile, her family had finally been approved for refugee status in the United States, inspiring the young couple to do the same. Eventually, after five more years of living displaced, in Kenya, Amnobe got on an airplane for the very first time and flew across the ocean.
After a short stint in Raleigh, North Carolina, Amnobe reunited with her family in Clarkston, Georgia. “It had been years since I had seen them. We had a big party,” she smiles.
Finally she had peace. But her fears for her family’s safety were replaced by worries of how they would make a new life for themselves in a culture unlike anything they had ever experienced.
Her sister helped her get a job at a chicken factory, a common “career” for many refugees and immigrants in the area. She worked the 8-hour night shift, sandwiched by an hour plus ride to and from. The commute was in a packed van, her only option for transportation.
The conditions were brutal. “It was really cold. It hurt my hands and fingers,” she says, about the job she endured for two long years. Amnobe eventually transferred to a new job at a company, cleaning clothes for hospitals, and continuing to contribute to their growing family’s income.
One day a friend told her about Amplio Recruiting, a nearby staffing company connecting refugees to viable jobs. The team immediately connected Amnobe to a job at House of Cheatham, a hair and body care manufacturer, where she started the very next day.
While they’re still trying to find her “sweet spot”, Amnobe is thriving at her new job. No longer underemployed, the family has now been able to take steps towards self-sustainability. Just last week they put a down payment on a house, which they will close on in February. For the first time since that fateful night over 20 years ago, she will have a permanent home.
Every day Amnobe wakes up and goes into work, laying a foundation for a better future for her two daughters, 7 and 4 months. “I want them to go to school, get jobs, and live a good life.”
Amplio CEO, Chris Chancey says her time at the chicken factory speaks volumes of Amnobe’s work ethic, explaining, “You’ve got to be a hard-working person and very tough to work at the chicken plant for one day, much less two years. We are celebrating with her for her new, forward-focused job.”
Despite their hard past, Amnobe and other refugees are proving their talent and tenacity in U.S. workplaces across the country.
“See us as citizens, not refugees,” she implores, communicating the common desire of most refugees—to be contributors, not burdens on society. They need only be given the opportunity to do so.
At Amplio, we take pride in connecting refugees to opportunities—labor shortage needs within the U.S. workplace.
We believe the refugee workforce is America’s labor shortage solution. We take pride in providing top notch employees to companies, specializing in construction staffing, manufacturing staffing, and hospitality staffing. While other staffing agencies are sourcing talent from the same labor pool, we connect you with the legal and motivated refugee workforce.
Visit our website or contact us to learn more about our benefits and services.