Former Refugee Provides Loving Home for Unaccompanied Refugee Children

Globally, the number of unaccompanied refugee children fleeing violence and persecution has skyrocketed. Here in the United States, many families are welcoming them with open arms to provide them protection, and a home. Photo Credit: "Children on the Run" report by UNHCR

Globally, the number of unaccompanied refugee children fleeing violence and persecution has skyrocketed. Here in the United States, many families are welcoming them with open arms to provide them protection, and a home. Photo Credit: "Children on the Run" report by UNHCR

Story by Patricia Billinger, Communication Director, Denver, Colorado

Geras Shoukulu arrived in the United States as an unaccompanied refugee minor. He knows what it is like to find yourself in a strange land, having to start a new life far from the comforts of home, family, friends and culture. Today, he and his wife, Jacqueline Mukandekezi, pay it forward by fostering unaccompanied refugee minors. Working with the American Red Cross, the couple seeks to reunite the children with their families while helping them create a new life in America.

For their contribution to reducing the suffering of children, Geras Shoukulu and Jacqueline Mukandekezi will receive the Red Cross International Services Award at the American Red Cross Heroes Soiree in Denver, Colorado on Friday, February 26, 2016.

Geras Shoukulu and his wife, Jacqueline Mukandekezi, have been licensed foster care providers for five years. The couple assists unaccompanied refugee minors as they transition to the U.S. from refugee camps overseas. During their time as foster care providers, the couple have fostered eight unaccompanied refugee minors and currently have two more in their care.

“Being in an Unaccompanied Refugee Minor program is hard, but you just have to put on some faith and say this is who I am. I’m not lost. I’m somebody, and I’m going to keep on going,” Shoukulu said.    

Shoukulu, a refugee himself, lost his parents at age 16 and became the parent to his younger brothers, who all lived in a refugee camp. Mukandekezi was an orphan.

“It makes me happy to know that the things I didn’t get, I’m now able to give it to somebody,” Mukandekezi said.

In addition to providing a loving home for the children, Shoukulu and Mukandekezi work with the Restoring Family Links program at the American Red Cross in hopes of reconnecting the children with family members from whom they’ve been separated by war, conflict, and disaster. 

In recognition of their actions, Geras Shoukulu and Jacqueline Mukandekezi will be honored at the American Red Cross Heroes Soiree. The Heroes Soiree is a celebration of the Red Cross spirit as exemplified in lifesaving heroes in Colorado. A cutting-edge, unique evening of inspiration and entertainment, the Soiree is also the American Red Cross Mile High Area’s largest fundraiser of the year. The event will feature keynote speaker Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross national organization, and special guest Governor John Hickenlooper. Former Denver Bronco and motivational speaker Reggie Rivers will serve as Master of Ceremonies alongside Britt Moreno of CBS4 Denver.

All proceeds benefit local Red Cross services such as disaster response, preparedness education, services to the armed forces, and lifesaving training like CPR, First Aid and AED.

For more information on the event, please click here.