I am a 27 year old native and citizen of the Republic of Congo. I was born in 1987 in Brazzaville, the capital city. I am a musical artist associated with an opposition political party that promotes democracy and freedom of expression in my country. As a result of my membership of the opposition, I have been beaten and shot at by members of the Congolese military. My sister was a local leader with the opposition until government soldiers beat her to death in front of me and my family. I felt so fearful that I would face further persecution on account of my political opinions and suffer the same fate as my sister. I left my country as soon as I could, to find refuge in the United States.
When I arrived in Washington DC, I only had $100 in my pocket and I didn't speak the language. At the airport, I borrowed a phone and contacted my brother’s friend who lived in New Jersey. After struggling to communicate with a number of people, I managed to take a taxi to the bus station, where I spent the last of my money on a bus ticket to New York .Once I got to New York, I called my brother's friend and he came to pick me up in front of Macy's. I stayed with him for one month until he told me that his mother wanted me to leave. I had no choice. Fortunately the friend put me in touch with a pastor that he knew in Denver, Colorado and paid for my bus ticket.
I stayed in Denver for about two months, living with the pastor. During my time there, I started looking into how to obtain political asylum in the United States just to make my situation better. It was hard to find people in Colorado who had experience with political asylum cases. I was advised to go to Columbus, Ohio, where there was a large Congolese population that might be able to help. I left Denver to go to Columbus and stayed there for about a week looking at different options. One person suggested that I should return to New York, to join the Bellevue Hospital program for survivors of torture and traumatized refugees. The purpose of the program is to provide survivors of torture and other severe trauma victims with medical care, psychological counseling and assistance in accessing legal services. He put me in contact with a friend of his, Charlotte, in Jamaica, Queens.
I came to New York and stayed at Charlotte's home and she helped me get started with the program at Bellevue Hospital. This has been a great experience for me. As a member of the program, I have been able to talk about the violence I suffered and the constant fear that I felt while living in the Congo. I was able to speak with a psychologist, who diagnosed post-traumatic stress and prescribed medication that is improving my symptoms .I have also learned many useful breathing exercises that help me fall asleep.