When they look around the room, they see two tired, loving parents and five energetic siblings.
And they feel a sense of duty to help provide for them all.
Chris (16) and Jacob (18) are brothers who immigrated from the Congo along with their large family. When they arrived in the United States, they weren’t sure how they would begin to adjust to their new community, but the Lutheran Services Refugee Services Program came alongside them ready to offer support.
With the help of the Youth & Mentoring program, the two brothers immediately enrolled in a local school that allowed them to continue their education. The program also connected them with tutoring classes to improve their English and increase their GPAs in core courses.
But the brothers also wanted to find more immediate ways to directly support their family.
So Elisa Santos-Robles, (mentoring coordinator) along with the Program Manager and the Employment Specialist, helped the boys arrange job interviews with a local restaurant. When they told her they had no transportation, Elisa offered to drive them herself.
“That’s what we do here, “Elisa said. “I treat those boys like they’re my own kids.”
A few days later, Chris and Jacob were told that they were hired, and they were on their way to getting the income they needed to support their large family.
But when Elisa realized the boys would have to walk 30 minutes each day to get to work, she began to advocate on their behalf.
“I asked my supervisors, ‘Is there any way we can get them some bikes?’”, she recalls.
The center worked to secure bikes for the two brothers so they would face one less obstacle in their already challenging transition. It cut their commute in half, which was helpful when Chris and Jacob were trying to balance daily classes with their new work schedule.
Currently, the brothers are studying to take the test for their learners’ permits with hopes of getting drivers licenses.
They plan to use the money they are earning at work to buy a car that they can share with their parents, who work at a local fish market.
“It’s been incredible to see their progress. They really are great kids,” Elisa beams.
With dreams of becoming a police officer and a doctor, the brothers are slowly but surely checking off the goals they’ve set since their arrival to the United States.
And with hard work, family support, and continued guidance from Lutheran Services Florida, the boys are sure to be successful.