In Celebration of Refugees

On World Refugee Day, we honor and celebrate the strength and courage of people who were forced to flee their home and seek out ways to rebuild their lives in another country.

At Caritas of Austin, we believe that everyone deserves a safe place to call home and the resources to build well-being. We are dedicated to supporting refugees through our Employment Program with our employment services, cash and medical assistance.

Olivier Nikwigize is one of our Employment clients, and we’re inspired by his story of courage and resilience.

Fleeing political persecution, Olivier left Rwanda and came to the United States in 2021. Although he traveled the world as a professional rugby player, he had never visited America before and didn’t know how to speak English.

In addition to learning a whole new language, Olivier struggled to find employment and other services vital to settling in a new country. The experience was terrifying and discouraging, he said.

“When you become a refugee, you feel hopeless,” Olivier said. “You’re questioning everything, you feel depressed, and your trust in people goes down.”

As he continued to work to rebuild well-being in his life and get adjusted to life in Austin, he connected with Caritas of Austin’s Employment Program.

Caritas of Austin Employment Specialist Jeralyn Wilks worked tirelessly alongside Olivier to help him create a resume and find and apply to jobs. He is proud to say he started a job with CapMetro on February 27.

“Olivier jumped on the opportunity to obtain an education when I told him that CDL school is an option through our vocational training,” Jeralyn said. “He came to Caritas already holding a vision of his future in his hands, and he has already made great strides to realize those dreams.”

With a stable job with a livable income, Olivier is now able to focus on bringing his wife and two children to Austin to live with him. While he waits for them, he plans to continue working at Cap Metro and go back to school to study IT.

“I want to create a good life for my family,” he said. “Getting more education will help me support them, and I’m interested in IT.”

He is also able to explore Austin more now that he has a stable job and says one of his favorite things about the city is its diversity of cultures and food.

“I never had tacos or queso before coming to Austin,” he said. “Now whenever I have people visit, I always take them to try it.”

Because of your generosity, our Employment Program is able to help people build stability and a brighter future through stable jobs. Thank you for your support in our work to make Austin more vibrant for all!