Grace Muwawa is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2007, Muwawa was sent to the United States by her mother for a better life with more opportunities. This move happened shortly after her father died from health complications. What Muwawa didn’t know was that her journey to the “land of the free” would find her in a place of harassment, sexual abuse and child trafficking inside the place she thought she would be able to call home with the man that her mother trusted to care for her.
Muwawa’s story is complex. She’s vocal about what the process was like to get to America. She’s transparent about her feelings towards the man who brought her to America only to later abandon her. She’s open to discussing the hardships faced while attending school in Rochester. She’s fearless about sharing the stories of the Congolese people and their desire to do anything to get to the country they believe has no faults. Even after leaving Congo for what she thought would be an immediate better life, she has been abandoned, abused and accused. And she provides opportunities for local residents to hear her story and support her cause through creative events.
Muwawa says despite the serious issues that has shaped her life, she is blessed . She firmly believes that her struggle has prepared her to take the steps to start her own foundation dedicated to orphans in Congo. For Muwawa, she is hopeful that her work will prevent youth who are hopeful for the opportunity to come to the Americas from experiencing some of the hardships she faced in search for a better life.
Muwawa’s experiences on her journey to America are shocking and quite frankly, scary. But she refuses to let the negative experiences in her life control her destiny.
“I’ve been bullied all of my life,” said Muwawa. “I’ve lived in fear of even going outside because the way I was treated by the people who brought me into their homes when I left Congo.” Muwawa explained that while she is grateful for one family that took her in after she was abandoned by the man who promised her mother that he would care for her, she just couldn’t understand why they treated her the way they did.
“They called me ugly, black and blamed me for household issues that were completely out of my control.”
Currently, Muwawa holds an Employment Authorization Documenr (EAD) which allows her to be legally employed in the United States. However, her status for legal citizenship is still pending.
On Saturday, January 27 at The Artisan Works in Rochester, Muwawa will host A Date With Art, a masquerade ball to benefit the Heberande Foundation, an organization located in a small village in Congo focused on providing the homeless, abandoned and orphaned children with resources and opportunities for personal development. Muwawa started this organization while living in Rochester with the support of her mother and other relatives and friends in Congo. She was able to build an orphanage on property her father left her after his passing.
In an effort to support the goals for her foundation and her fight for citizenship, The Beat staff will attend the event to shoot a video highlighting Muwawa’s story and her tireless effort to engage Rochesterians in her fight to make positive change in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the lives of neglected children and immigrants throughout Rochester.
Proceeds from the masquerade ball ticket sales will benefit the Heberande Foundation in Congo. For more information about the foundation and the masquerade ball, visit www.houseofmuwawa.com.
Be sure to check back with the station that tackles the problems of the community with the community for the recap video of the masquerade ball happening this weekend.