Caritas Habimana | Neighborhood Leader

  • Caritas Habimana
  • Neighborhood Leader
  • Translator

This is Caritas. She is one of six Community Leaders helping us identify transportation needs for people living in Columbia’s Vision Zero Priority Neighborhoods. Striving to build transportation equity, our Neighborhood Grassroots Organizing Project will lift the often unheard voices of the most vulnerable members of our communities. 

Caritas moved to Columbia as a refugee from Rwanda 26 years ago. She is a mother, translator, caretaker, driver, social worker, and support system for over 100 African refugees in Columbia. Even just talking to her for a minute, you can tell Caritas treasures helping those in the same position she was in decades ago. Although she doesn’t have much money, Caritas considers herself richer than most in Columbia. But Caritas doesn’t get paid for the countless hours she spends helping her community. In fact, she works nights to be free during the day to help the people she empathizes with so much. When we asked her how she gets any sleep, she laughed and smiled, not needing to tell us that she barely does. Refugees that come to the United States are given three months of financial help until they need to figure out how to support themselves, including their own transportation to jobs, appointments, and basic needs. Caritas asked us earnestly, “How do you think it would feel to get to Africa, having escaped death and hardship, and then be expected to support yourself in three months?” 

We wanted Caritas to be one of our Community Leaders because she spends hours every week, using her own gas money, driving fellow refugees around Columbia. Some refugees are people with disabilities, some can’t get their license due to language barriers, others have emergencies that public transit can’t accommodate. The transportation issues within Caritas’ community are tough and complex. But we’re determined to help her and the people that she serves because if you learn a few things from talking with Caritas, it’s determination, kindness, and an assurance that anything can be done.