‘God gives me hope’: refugee student’s difficult journey to graduation – School News Network
This is a story about a student and teachers, so no surprise that it involves the three Rs. But not these three Rs. Instead, the three Rs in this story are refugees, relationships, and religion. .
And for Muholeza Consolat, a Kelloggsville high school student and refugee who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo with his family at the age of 11, relationships and religion have been just as important to his educational journey in recent months as reading. , writing and arithmetic.
This is because Muholeza is facing an inherited genetic condition called Stargardt disease which is slowly robbing him of his vision.
Disorder of the retina, the disease results in progressive vision loss. The National Eye Institute says that Stargardt typically causes vision loss during childhood or adolescence, and that it “causes progressive damage or degeneration of the macula,” a small area in the center of the retina responsible for sharp, straight vision. Although it rarely causes complete blindness, the disease slowly reduces vision to 20/200 or worse, according to the Eye Institute.
This description is not new to Muholeza, who has researched the disease extensively since her diagnosis. He also knows that the disease is not that rare, affecting about one in 10,000 people.
Although those who know him best, including his professors at Kelloggsville and the Kent Career Tech Center, describe him as optimistic, gregarious, self-motivated and resourceful, his positive nature and inherent optimism can only lead him to the extent that he thinks about what to expect.
Future plans unknown
On a balmy spring day, as he sits in the library at Kelloggsville High School, less than three weeks before graduation day, he knows his peers are busy making plans for the future, including college, careers and more. But it’s hard for him to imagine next week or next month, let alone what he might do next fall as a high school graduate.
“Everything is everywhere,” he says calmly as he and Kelloggsville teacher Susan Faulk chat one day after school. “I just don’t know.
What gives him some hope are the acupuncture treatments he received in New Jersey in the spring, treatments he plans to do again this summer after graduation.
They are not cheap and are considered outside the normal range of treatment for the disease. But Muholeza says the first round helped slow the progression of his vision loss and, he says, even returned some of the vision he had lost. He can’t wait to try the treatment again.
“God has shown me that he will take care of me, and he has put people in my life who take care of me.
– Muholeza Consolat
And he’s extremely grateful to Faulk, who hosted an impromptu spring fundraiser that saw Kelloggsville teachers and staff raise over $ 4,000 in just over 24 hours to pay for Muholeza’s first trip to the New Jersey.
Even now, Faulk is moved when she talks about how the Kelloggsville community has responded to the need.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I’m torn just thinking about it. The response has been incredible. He is loved and people want to invest in him.
Pastor’s Wife, Pastor’s Son Connect
Fault readily admits that she is one of those people, but she quickly adds that she is one of them.
She first met Muholeza in seventh grade while teaching English language learners at Kelloggsville College. She remembers the next time she saw him in ninth grade, he didn’t need any support anymore because he had learned English quickly enough in two years to get by on his own.
But she saw something in him, and he in her, and the two remained in close contact throughout her high school career, maintaining a deep relationship of respect and appreciation.
“I think maybe because I’m a pastor’s wife,” she said with a small smile.
Muholeza does not disagree.
He is in turn the son of a pastor. And he makes no apologies for the role his faith, and that of his parents and six siblings, has played in his life and in the way he faces his current struggles.
“We’re a very religious family, aren’t we,” he says. “And I’m thankful that we have very godly parents. Super grateful. “
This religious foundation, he adds, was a lifelong source of support that saw him live in Congo as a young boy before the family had to flee and then spend two years in Uganda in awaiting entry into the United States.
He’s a source of support now too as he tries to cope with his recent diagnosis of illness.
Joy and hope in God and in music
“God gives me hope,” he said simply. And although he often lowers his eyes when answering a question, with that answer his gaze is fixed and his head is upright.
He continues, “One day I was praying, and I decided that I was just going to open the Bible and wherever I go is everywhere I go. And I open it, and I went to see Job.
He looks at Faulk. He and his family call her Mama Susan as a sign of the deep respect and love they have for her as a teacher and family friend.
“Do you know Job? he asks. She nods.
“After reading his story,” Muholeza continues, “I looked at mine and thought, ‘Dude, my problems are nothing compared to what Job went through.’”
He also finds joy in music. He plays for his father’s church, The Way Pentecostal, usually guitar but also sometimes keyboards, and for a church in Grandville called Rock Urban Church. He is also part of the Kelloggsville band where he plays the trombone.
“Every time I play music, I don’t think about anything,” he says. “I’m focused. I can play the guitar blindfolded, okay. The music makes me smile.”
He adds, his face indeed now split with a big smile, “And I’m pretty good at it, I can say.”
Connection to Tech Center
Troy Anderson, the group director at Kelloggsville schools, agrees.
He remembers meeting Muholeza for the first time when the young refugee joined the seventh-year group without ever having played the trombone or read sheet music. Over the years, he has watched in amazement the musical gifts of his students.
“I play in several gospel groups around town and attended a concert for a church that brought together local groups,” Anderson recalls. “I took Muholeza to come see us because he is really interested in learning more about gospel music.
“Being his usual friend, he made himself at home during our soundcheck, and he ran into someone he knew in one of the other bands. He ends up borrowing a guitar from one of our guys and playing with this band during their set. The kicker is another group who heard him play and asked him to join them on their board too!
“He went as an observer and ended up becoming an artist,” he adds. “He’s a versatile young man. I was really proud of him that night.
His professors at the Tech Center, where Muholeza participated in the health sciences and criminal justice program, are also proud.
A GoFundMe of his teachers
Ben Hawkins is a criminal justice instructor at the Tech Center, and he and his colleague Gregg Isenhoff have come to appreciate Muholeza from the short time they have known him. So much so, in fact, that they’ve set up a GoFundMe to raise money for their next round of acupuncture treatments!
“He is loved and people want to invest in him.”
– professor Susan Faulk
“It didn’t come from a lot,” says Hawkins. “As you can imagine, money is limited in his house. But he always arrives with a smile and a positive attitude every day. When Gregg asked Muholeza if we could help him as a class, Muholeza first said he didn’t need any help, but then changed his mind, and when he found out that the people were donating money (via GoFundMe), he got emotional.
Hawkins says what he and Isenhoff did came quite naturally.
“We wanted to help in a way,” he says. “Due to the ongoing pandemic, we have not been able to conduct traditional fundraising activities such as a car wash or a bake sale. We knew we had to do all we could to continue her treatment.
For his part, Muholeza is grateful.
“God showed me that he will take care of me, and he has put people in my life who take care of me,” he said simply. “The relationships I have with so many people also help me get out of it. What else can I do? “