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Humans of JCU: Fred Mwenda Kipata

Fred Mwenda Kipata
Media Beat Reporter Olivia Buckel spotlights the inspiring backstory of Democratic Republic of Congo native and current JCU student Fred Mwenda Kipata.

John Carroll senior Fred Mwenda Kipata has lived and experienced more things than many people twice his age could even fathom. A survivor of a civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), refugee camps and living on a college campus as an ESL learner, Kipata has persevered through all of it, coming out on the other side a successful student, son and friend.

Born in the DRC, Kipata grew up in the neighboring country Zambia. In the early 2000s, he and his parents fled the civil war in Congo and sought refuge in a refugee camp in the northern province of Zambia. It was there that he first began to experience the life of a refugee.

“I first lived in a refugee camp called Mwange,” Kipata said. “Years later, the camp was to be closed and people were forced to either go back home through repatriation or another option was to be moved to another camp. My parents decided to be moved to another camp within Zambia in search of resettlement. In the late 2000s – I believe it was in 2009 – we relocated to another camp where we had to start over again.”

Kipata’s family relocated to Maheba, a camp located in the northwestern region of Zambia, where there was a mix of refugees from different countries. This included refugees from Angola and Rwanda. “This is when I had to switch languages in school from a French curriculum to an English (British) one,” Kipata explained.

In November 2015, Kipata and his family got a chance to move to the United States and they took it. It was then that Kipata had to hone in on his use of English as a third language, the first two languages being Swahili and French. Despite the constant moving around and limitations that came with living in the refugee camp conditions, Kipata found a way to live each day with a smile on his face and experience many happy moments in his childhood.

“Honestly, I have many favorite childhood memories, but I would say when my friends, brothers and I would go fetch water from a well and we start splashing water on each other and end up soaked is up there,” Kipata said. “Afterwards, we knew we were in trouble going back home soaked so we would go sunbath. I do not know how long that took but long enough for us to get in trouble at home because we would take forever to get back home. In the end, we would get in trouble either way whether it was being soaked or being back late.”

When Kipata had grown older, he started becoming more active in sports and extracurriculars in his high school. It was through this that he first learned about John Carroll and decided to further his education.

“My soccer coach and teacher – Michael Gong – in high school was a student at JCU, class of 2015. I first heard about JCU from him and he would bring us here to watch soccer games and tour the campus. After coming a couple of times, I kind of liked the atmosphere and looked further into the programs and they had a good reputation.”

Once Kipata became a part of the JCU family, he quickly became involved in as much as he possibly could. “I have been a Residence Assistant for the past three years, I am part of the club soccer and part of BSA,” Kipata said. “Outside of JCU, I am a student ambassador for UNICEFUSA, I am a youth mentor at Refugee Response now called Resource Cleveland. I also volunteer for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA).”

At John Carroll, Kipata is a Political Science and Peace, Justice and Human Rights double major. He also has Leadership Development and French as minors and he plans on furthering his education at graduate school.

“I would like to go to school in either DC or NYC to study Diplomacy and International Relations,” Kipata said.

Through the course of all of these trials and tribulations, Kipata has managed to keep a close circle of friends and family in his life, most especially his parents and siblings and he is incredibly proud of himself for making it so.

“I am proud of being in control of my life and making it this far in my school and professional career,” Kipata said.

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About the Contributor
Olivia Buckel
Olivia Buckel, Media Beat Reporter
Olivia Buckel is a Media Beat Reporter for The Carroll News. She is from Erie, Pennsylvania, and is currently a freshman at JCU. She is majoring in English with a Creative Writing concentration as well as a Gender, Sexuality and Women’s studies minor. She is also in the Honors Program In addition to writing for The Carroll News, Olivia is also a part of the Honors Service Board, as well as the JCU Allies Club and the Women and Allies Coalition. She is also a Peace, Justice, and Human Rights Ambassador and a prose editor for The Carroll Review. During her free time, Olivia enjoys reading fantasy books, writing fantasy stories, and watching fantasy TV. In the future, Olivia hopes to be an editor for a publishing house or magazine.  

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