Thursday, September 7, 2017

Her name is Chrystelle.

And this was a very happy day for her. Last month she received her "white coat," a ceremonial tradition for incoming students in the School of Pharmacy at Texas Tech University. Mike Bellah, her former English professor, and his wife, Charlotte, were there with her for that celebration. Little James decided it was nap time.
Chrystelle's story isn't complete without telling you about her husband, Williance.
The two met in their native Camaroon, Africa, at age 16. As time went by their love for each other grew and they shared the dream of coming to the United States to study. Williance wanted to study dentistry. Chrystelle wanted to be a pharmacist. Immigration regulations and red tape separated them for a number of years. She came to the U.S. and he went to Paris for college. These were not easy years, but they were bearable with the help of Mike and Charlotte and a group at Amarillo College called "Finishers" comprised of students who wanted to encourage each other through the difficult hurdles of completing their education. 

Chrystelle was a student in one of Mike's English classes. As he became more acquainted with her situation as a young immigrant with no support system, he learned she was in a very difficult living situation that was causing her distress. Mike was able to connect her with Social Services and she moved into a shelter. Transportation to and from school was a challenge, but Mike and the Finishers set up rides for her so she could continue her education. Williance and Chrystelle married in Paris in 2013, and after two weeks she came back to the U.S. alone as they continued to work on the details of his immigration. Finally in 2015 he was able to join her, with Mike signing as his immigration sponsor.

Last summer little James was born, but the joy of this time was short-lived when less than two weeks later Williance's body was found in their apartment swimming pool after he suffered a heat stroke. Devastated, Chrystelle had to remove him from life support a couple days later.

Once again, the Finishers group rallied around her, raising money through crowd-funding to fly her and Williance's body back to Camaroon for his burial near his family. The Finishers sat with her and cared for her as she grieved. 

Fast forward through a very difficult year mixed with some practical assistance, Chrystelle has passed the rigorous entrance exam into pharmacy school! While she is looking forward to this next step in her education, funding child care for little James is a worry. She is researching grants to help with that. In a year, her mother hopes to move here from Camaroon to help her care for James.

This woman at 29 years old is one resilient lady. She could have chosen to stay in Camaroon, but she wanted to return to Texas and continue toward her goal. And some ordinary people in her world made a point to invest in helping Chrystelle during the times when she needed it most. They shared in her joys, sorrows, hopes and dreams and found tangible ways to encourage her to be a Finisher.