Refugee and Father Has Double Reason to Celebrate
By LORETTA FULTON
Anyone who knows Jean Kahenga and his son, Bonfils Babone, understand why both had much to celebrate on Sunday, June 20.
A lot of fathers were smiling Sunday, as they got gifts from children–and maybe Mom–in honor of Father’s Day, an American tradition. But Jean and Bonfils had another reason to smile, too. Sunday, June 20, also was World Refugee Day, as recognized by the United Nations.
Jean, 42, and Bonfils, 17, arrived in Abilene through the International Rescue Committee two years ago. Bonfils will be a junior at Abilene High School in the fall. Jean, who was a teacher before having to flee his native Democratic Republic of Congo, works at Abimar Foods, Inc. Both Jean and Bonfils were unaware of the Father’s Day tradition, but Bonfils acknowledged how much he admires and loves his dad.
“He buys me everything I want,” Bonfils said with a smile.
Bonfils is looking for a summer job but also looking forward to school in the fall. He is learning both English and Spanish and wants to become an engineer.
“I like to fix things,” he said.
Jean is the father of five children. Bonfils is the oldest and the only one living in Abilene. The other children are ages 4, 6, 13, and 15. Two sons live in Canada with their mother. A daughter and a son live in Burundi with their mother.
Jean and Bonfils were resettled to Abilene from a refugee camp in Burundi. Jean is a great example of the hundreds of refugees who have been resettled here since January 2004 by the International Rescue Committee, said Susanna Lubanga, resettlement director.
“Jean shows the resilience and drive that makes refugees so successful in Abilene,” Lubanga said. “They share our Texas spirit of hard work and building community.”
Jean and Bonfils both are happy living in Abilene but would be happier if the other children lived here, too.
“It is very good to live with all my children,” Jean said.
Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene