We are so thrilled that Palangwa, Mupunga, and Batatu Makemba graduated high school after working with LSF’s Comprehensive Refugee Services (CRS) since 2019. They are now attending college after the help they received from CRS’s Youth Services and Mentoring programs. Let us tell you their story.
Palangwa, Mupunga, and Batatu are triplets from a large family born into the Congo of Africa. Their parents feared for their lives because of ongoing wars and violent conflict. They made the difficult decision to flee the Congo when the triplets were only one month old.
Their parents were terrified but put on a brave face and made a 750-mile trek on foot and bicycle with their newborn triplets and other children. They arrived safely in Zambia where they resided in two different refugee camps over close to 17 years.
Palangwa, Mupunga, and Batatu grew up in Zambia confined to their refugee camp. They couldn’t leave, because it was not safe for them. It was the only life they knew. While their family continued to grow, Palangwa and Mupunga eventually started going to work with their father in fields. They learned how to play soccer, but only with others inside the camp.
For years, their parents completed applications and interview processes repeatedly to seek political asylum in a safer county.
They were notified in June 2018 they would be able to leave for the United States. At first, their parents were told they would be resettling to Arkansas. But to their surprise, they were handed plane tickets to Florida. They were scared and nervous. Because most of their lives they lived confined to camps, they didn’t know if Florida was outside of the United States or where it was.
When they arrived in Tampa, they were greeted by one of LSF’s CRS representatives who assisted in finding them a place to live and schools for the children to attend.
The Makemba family said all their doubts and fears were gone after meeting with someone from LSF.
LSF CRS provided wrap around services to make sure the entire family was comfortably integrated in America and set up for a successful life. The triplets were assigned a Mentor and a Youth Specialist.
Their assigned mentor, Marie Cloutier, worked hard to provide the triplets extra support while navigating high school in America. She made sure they would have the best high school experience. She connected Palangwa and Mupunga with the high school soccer coach and they made the varsity team! Palangwa even won Rookie of the Year! At the end of the season banquet, they got to experience receiving their varsity letters—which is unlike anything they ever had in Zambia playing soccer at the camps.
Marie kept on going and wanted to make sure the triplets had the best senior year experience. She found financial assistance to buy them outfits for the Homecoming Dance and even drove them there herself to make sure they could attend! She even made sure there was funding to get their senior portraits taken.
Meanwhile, while Marie was working on the triplet’s senior year experiences, their Youth Services Specialist Ana Chavez Vivo, was focused on making sure they made it to high school graduation. She connected the triplets to 56 hours of tutoring and stepped in during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure all three of them continued to make strides in core classes, even while attending school virtually.
The triplets gained confidence while attending high school and continued to work towards having a better life. Although the end of their senior year was different than expected, they did not stop working towards their goal of walking across the stage at graduation. Just before graduation, Ana set up an appointment with a vocational planner to see how LSF could connect the triplets to education after high school.
Palangwa, Mupunga, and Batatu successfully graduated from Hillsborough High School and now are attending Brewster Technical College. Which is incredible! CRS’ programs worked together so the triplets could feel a sense of pride in graduation, then moving on to college to build their future. Congratulations Palangwa, Mupunga, and Batatu!