The Edmond Sun

Local News

June 30, 2012

Finding the American Dream: Edmond couple from Africa become U.S. citizens

EDMOND — For Robert and Eunice Menja, the path to U.S. citizenship and a home in Edmond was nearly 9,000 miles and three decades in the making.

Their journey began in their homeland of Kenya, a republic located in east Africa between Uganda and the Indian Ocean. After Kenya gained independence in 1963, unemployment, child labor, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, civil unrest and a subpar education system — about half of boys and even fewer girls attend school after age 16 — contributed to poverty in the republic.

Eunice was born in a rural village in central Kenya. Both of her parents were teachers. Eunice, her parents and four brothers and one sister lived in a modest six-room home without electricity and running water. They did have a tank that collected rainwater.

The largest room was used for study, education — one of the values Eunice received from her parents. Others included respect for others and kindness. She recalls many people being helped by her parents who shared food, clothes and drinking water with neighbors. Her father taught about agriculture, and he made a small farm at home. It produced enough vegetables for the family and for them to sell or give to others.

Eunice said she encountered poverty. She said even though her family had shoes to wear she did not wear them to school since other students did not have them. She also spoke about the hardships women face in Kenya.

Growing up, she didn’t know about America, but she recalls hearing about people flying off to different countries.

“My mother said if you work very hard at school one day you will fly away in one of those planes,” she said.

After college, Eunice began thinking about America, which she had learned about through movies. She recalls its natural beauty, all of the glass (which is uncommon in many Kenyan villages), good food and flashy cars. In primary school she learned about the freedoms Americans enjoy. In college, she learned some about American government.

She said she didn’t know where Oklahoma was. But it would soon become her new home.

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