Separated nearly 5 years, refugee family reunites at O’Hare airport

Chicago News

CHICAGO – A Congolese family separated for nearly 5 years reunited at O’Hare International Airport Wednesday, with the help of RefugeeOne, Chicago’s largest resettlement agency.

WGN cameras rolled as the moment was filled with excitement, anticipation, and joy at O’Hare’s international terminal. Mwenebatu Mwenemkamba was finally home.

“I’m so happy to see him again,” said Mapenzi Mweniake, Mwenebatu’s wife. “It’s been a long time, five years, not easy.”

Mwenemkamba says, “I think God has done a miracle for me today. We are together.”

After fleeing the Congo, Mapenzi and Mwenebatu met at a Tanzanian refugee camp where they lived for more than 20 years and married. In 2016, Mapenzi and their son arrived in Chicago, but Mwenebatu Had to stay behind for clearance.

The wait became longer after former president Donald Trump’s administration sharply cut refugee admissions. The pandemic followed.

“So families are reuniting again and refugees are getting the chance after many, many years of being warehoused to come and start their life,” said Melineh Kano, executive director of RefugeeOne.

The reunification was made possible because of RefugeeOne and co-sponsor First Congregational Church of Western Springs. Members donated money, supplies and time to prepare a Rogers Park apartment that the family will call home.

“It’s been like five years, so yeah, I can’t wait to play, go outside and go to the park,” said the couple’s 12-year-old son Mussa Mrisha.

For Mwenemkamba, he says reuniting with his family is a second chance.

“I will try to do the best to begin a new life,” Mwenemkamba says, “and maybe it can be a good one.”

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