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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Red Cross Honors Couple for Hosting Children Impacted by War

By Cassie Schoon

Jackie Mukandekezi
In a way, Geras Shoukulu and Jackie Mukandekezi are always expecting. Over the past five years, the couple has welcomed eight unaccompanied refugee minors into their home. And each time a new refugee child arrives, Jackie says, it’s like bringing home a new baby.

“It’s like bringing in a newborn every time we bring a kid into our home,” she said. “Each time is like starting from the beginning.”

For each child, the experience of coming to Jackie and Geras’ home is a chance to start over after a life in refugee camps and war-torn communities. But since Jackie and Geras are from similar origins, they can provide a level of understanding and empathy different than many host families. Geras was settled as an unaccompanied minor from Ghana, and Jackie hails from Rwanda. As difficult as it can be hosting the refugee children in their home, Jackie says that her own history is what drives her to help children fleeing violence and conflict at home.

“What makes it worthwhile is that we are giving ourselves, as people who came from the same situations as these kids,” she said.

Geras Shoukulu
For Geras, who fled Ghana as the sole caretaker for his younger siblings, helping children like him is not a burden, but a blessing.

“A pastor told me, God has given me this gift, to care for others, and I should use it,” he said. “There was no beginning, and there will be no end, we will keep doing this as long as we are able to.”

For their humanitarian contributions to easing the suffering of people affected by war, conflict and disaster, Jackie and Geras will be honored with the Red Cross International Services Award at the 2016 Heroes Soiree on Friday, Feb. 26.

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