Agape Pamoja, a local non-for profit organization, works to substantially increase the quality of life for Congolese refugee families by purchasing and renovating “Blessing Homes” for refugees who are newly settled in Northeast Kansas City, specifically the Lykins Neighborhood.
Over the past 20 years, Kansas City, Mo., welcomed over 8,000 refugees. Today, the metro area holds the second largest Somali and Sudanese populations in the United States. Often, the refugees entering the KC Metro area fled from famine or war-torn countries. As a result of the 1998 Great African War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congolese refugee population in Kansas City rose to constitute 15% of the total refugee population. Many Congolese refugees spent 20 to 25 years in refugee camps in Tanzania, Kenya, and Malawi prior to settling in the region.
In response to the continued growth in Kansas City’s refugee populations, Agape Pamoja, meaning “Love” (Greek) “Community” (Swahili), was first launched in 2016. According to the Director of Family and Community Relations Nathan Dunahee, separate from resettlement agencies, Agape Pamoja works to “treat refugees as family” as stated by Dunahee.
In accordance with this mission, Agape Pamoja works to provide affordable housing to low-income immigrants and refugees who are underserved in the region. Specifically, the organization strategically purchases homes where their volunteers work every Wednesday and Saturday on renovations to increase the home quality for future residents.
Since the organization’s launching in 2016, Agape Pamoja has purchased and renovated 25 homes and two multifamily housing units. In addition to providing affordable housing, Agape Pamoja provides families with life skills including budgeting, planning, and applying for scholarships. Since its launch, Agape Pamoja has helped 12 students apply for and receive the competitive and life changing KC Scholars award.
According to Dunahee, the organization also makes an effort to “interact with [the refugee families] in a social relation culture,” as the Director of Family and Community relations stated.
In May 2023 volunteers with Agape Pamoja, along with two refugee students, traveled to Central and East Africa to provide four water installations for refugee camps. One of the students, born in the Kigoma refugee camp, visited their former refugee camp and was reunited with friends and family.
From gathering for weddings to trips outside of the metro area, Agape Pamoja volunteers stay interactive with the refugee families as according to Dunahee “over time we treat [the refugees] as family not as guests.”