Congolese refugee Odila Madiamba recently moved to Adams County with the help of Mary Furlong and other local supporters. Mount St. Mary’s iLEAD program is helping to ease his transition.
Madiamba, 41, grew up in the Congo. His troubles in his home country began when he was a young activist and opposed the use of child soldiers. According to an article from the Gettysburg Times, Madiamba was accused of “betraying the government” in Feb. 2000, and was arrested a few weeks later after attending a Women’s Day conference. He was tortured in a prison called Masina Cell and was released shortly after when he was able to get word to his father that he had been arrested. According to the article, the man who helped Madiamba get word to his father told him, “For you to be safe, to be free, you have to run away.” The last time Madiamba spoke to a family member was in April 2000.
Madiamba entered into Zambia illegally in May 2000 and was sent to Meheba Refugee Settlement. Madiamba promoted peace in the camp and helped improve the lives of the refugees. According to the article, he co-founded a refugee growth and empowerment organization, taught computer classes and worked for Doctor Without Borders. Furlong, an Adams County native, met Madiamba in 2006. Inspired by his passion for peace, she helped him establish a Model UN club in the refugee camp.
Madiamba spent 17 years in the refugee camp in Zambia and has been living in the U.S. since January. He lived in Gettysburg for a short time and now lives in Hanover, though he wants to move back to Gettysburg eventually.
After hearing about Madiamba’s story from her friend Furlong, Professor Dana Sauers jumped on the opportunity to help. Sauers is one member of a committee dedicated to helping Madiamba settle into his new home. She recognized right away how the philosophy of iLEAD aligned with Madiamba’s story. Sauers sent an email on Feb. 14 calling for “goods and prayers,” knowing that the charity of the Mount would deliver on Madiamba’s behalf.
“Odila represents the world,” said Sauers. “This is an opportunity to influence people to think of this issue in broader terms and be doers of the world.”
iLEAD is running a drive for Madiamba for the rest of the month. Boxes have been placed around campus to collect laundry detergent, facial lotion, soap, liquid dish washing detergent, canned goods and rice. Money for clothing, including gift cards, can be given to Sauers or Michael Hoover in the iLEAD office in Pangborn Hall.
Madiamba will be on campus in April. Any students who would like to meet him are encouraged to contact Sauers through email.
In the words of Pope Francis, as Sauers reminds us, “The most important thing we can offer one another is basic hospitality.”