Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Refugees from the Congo, forced to live in a camp for decades, have found a new home in Syracuse.
Volunteers from a church in Manlius sponsored the trip and fixed up an apartment in Syracuse.
The family of eight met their American neighbors for the first time Wednesday. Despite a language barrier, the warm welcome spoke volumes -- a stark contrast to the world they left behind.
"They had to flee Congo because they are both from different tribes and that was a big problem,” said Julie Norman of Catholic Charities, who served as a translator for Balegereze Mugushu and his wife. "Her parents were killed and his parents were also killed because people were upset about this marriage."
After being driven out of their homes, the family went to a Malawi refugee camp, where they've lived since 2002. Five of their children were born in the camp.
"In Malawi, we were suffering a lot,” Balegereze Mugushu said via Norman. "There are months where you get what you need food-wise and there are months when you don't get what you need."
In Central New York, they found a soft shoulder for a tired toddler, a toy to warm their beds and instant friends from St. Ann's Parish, who spent months gathering donations to furnish an apartment for the family.
"I was very happy to see that they had smiles and that they were very welcome to shaking your hand and it made me feel honored that they were happy and just made me feel thankful for what I had,” said St. Ann’s Parish Volunteer Grace DeSorbo.
With their long nightmare still fresh, Mugushu now dreams of a future where his own children can marry the person they love, without facing a death sentence.
"We're really grateful and we thank God for helping us get from Malawi to here and we are really hopeful now that we can change our lives and live in a very different way,” Mugushu said.