Editor’s note: The African Leadership Group exists in large part to connect immigrant families to services, institutions, and opportunities in the Denver area. When individuals or families encounter difficult circumstances, we want to be there to provide assistance. During the current pandemic crisis, for example, we are providing 1,500 meals each week to families.
In the case of Ugandan immigrant Emanuel Ssali, whose story you can read below, we were able to step in and help on a number of fronts when he abruptly lost his job driving a fuel truck at the worst possible time. Emanuel had never heard of ALG before being put into contact with us. We hope he will now become an active member of our community, sending other immigrants in need of assistance to us, and getting them involved in our organization as well.
On April 9, as the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting Colorado hard, I lost my job driving a truck that delivers fuel to service stations in the Denver area. The loss of my job, with no severance pay or warning, came at a difficult time for myself, my wife, and our four children.
Before I lost my job, we had hoped to buy the home next door to ours for our eldest daughter, who studies at the University of Colorado-Denver and Arapahoe Community College and plans some day to be a lawyer. Losing my job ended that dream, at least for now.
But the loan officer we were working with, Steve Tilghman of Universal Lending Corporation, works regularly with the African Leadership Group. I had never heard of ALG, but Steve put me in touch with Papa Dia, and Papa reached out promptly to offer assistance.
In very short order, we received a delivery of groceries, for which we were deeply grateful. Papa also put me in touch with a labor lawyer, who helped me file for unemployment insurance. This will help us keep current on the mortgage payments on our home until I can start a new job.
Most important, Papa connected me to a company that runs nursing homes. I have spoken to people there and hope to finalize the process soon of starting to work there full time.
ALG has also offered to provide my family with a laptop computer, so that my two younger daughters, who attend Smoky Hill High School and Horizon Middle School, can more easily complete their school work during this time when all schooling is online.
I am very grateful for all the assistance ALG has provided for me and my family during this difficult time. I certainly plan to become involved in this excellent organization.
I moved to Aurora with my family from Uganda five years ago. I felt the opportunities for my children would be limited if we stayed there, and I envisioned a better future for them here. Papa asked me if I have an American Dream for my family. I do, and it is that all of my children graduate from college and have careers as professionals. To be honest, that is what motivated me to leave Uganda. I have a lot of family there and we are very close, but I did not see many good opportunities there for my children.
Here, we have been able to pay tuition with the help of some grants my daughters have been able to get to offset some of the costs.Currently, we are up to date on our payments, but I need to start working again soon so that next semester does not become a challenge. I do not want my daughters to have to work too many hours while they are studying, because being tired would affect their learning.
My dream is that we are successful enough here that we are able to help some of our family back home achieve their dreams and complete their education in Uganda. The cost of education hinders them as it would have hindered us, so we want to help.
And then, if all goes well, I would love to return home to Uganda when it comes time to retire. There is nothing quite like having the extensive family connections we have at home. Hundreds of people connected by blood.
But in the meantime, I am hoping that ALG can help fill that role here. It connects people who are all striving for the same things, and brings us together in a community that resembles family. For that, I am so grateful.