Coming to a strange country not knowing the people, culture, or even language can be daunting. Many United States citizens often trace their families back and learn about those who came to these shores and struggled against difficult odds. The challenge continues, and sometimes people are available to offer a helping hand during the critical transition, to bridge the gap between one’s former life and the new one stretching out ahead with so many unknowns. One organization that serves in this capacity is Bridge Refugee Services, operating in the Knoxville and Chattanooga areas, which assists refugees, a group of people often including asylum seekers.
“How can I help?” is a question often posed by those who wish to help eliminate the pain and confusion of those living this difficult set of circumstances. With this question in mind, Drocella Mugorewera, executive director of Bridge Refugee Services Inc., will present at the next meeting of the Women’s Interfaith Dialogue of Oak Ridge. It will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, February 6, at the Jewish Congregation, 101 West Madison Lane in Oak Ridge. This is across the street from the back of the Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge.
Bridge Refugee Services Inc. primarily helps people learn how to live in the United States and to find employment as soon as possible. Prior to a family’s arrival, the organization arranges for housing, household items, food, job interviews, finding cosponsors, etc. to help the family begin making Knoxville or Chattanooga its home. Newly arrived parents and children also receive critical information and guidance about what to expect at school as they adjust to a new culture and language. Bridge Refugee Services also partners with faith communities and local volunteers to help provide tutors, recreational activities, and summer programs.
Mugorewera believes in embracing change, something she has lived firsthand. As part of her leadership style, she also seeks ways to help the community embrace and recognize the social, cultural, and economic values new Americans are bringing to our nation.
Mugorewera, who first arrived in the U.S. in 2009 as a refugee, adjusted quickly. Most recent evidence of this is the fact that she was elected as the delegate from Tennessee to the Refugee Congress in September 2016, and has been identified as one of “Ten Women Who Make a Difference in Knoxville” in a November 2016 article in the Knoxville Mercury. Before fleeing her country (Rwanda), Drocella was a private development consultant and before that she was a member of the Rwanden Parliament, and served as the head of the department of Lands, Environment, Forestry, Water and Mines in the Rwandan Government.
In 2014, Mugorewera was part of the Knox County Action Committee community leadership class. Before joining Bridge Refugee Services, she served as a multicultural outreach coordinator at Cherokee Health Systems in Knoxville for more than four years, when she helped refugees access healthcare and interpretation services.
She graduated from National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine in 1991 and has more than 15 years of experience in managing government and non-government programs in the United States and Africa. She speaks English, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, French, and Russian.
The public is invited to this free event. The Women’s Interfaith Dialogue brings together women of diverse faith, color, and culture to explore, understand, and learn from one another for the purpose of advancing justice, compassion, friendship, and human rights with a focus on women and children.