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Clement Yombe's Story


Clement Yombe

Clement Yombe was six months away from finishing his law degree in 1999 when civil war broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His friends who attended school with him at that time are now lawyers and judges and he was an important member of his community. "But," he says, "the war was a breaking point for me. I left everything - home, house, family members and friends." While Clement was at the university, being hidden by friends, his family was put in prison, ready to be killed at any time because his mother was a Tutsi. A UN envoy visiting the prisons found civilians being held for no apparent reason; Clement's family was released but they had "to fly". With the help of the UN, they went first to Cameroon, and then to the U.S., where Clement and his family landed in Atlanta, Georgia in 2000.

Clement had been fortunate to find funding to study English for 10 months after high school at the American School in Kinshasa in 1992. He was good at it, but for lack of practice, his English was rusty when he arrived in Atlanta. He got a job as a cashier in a grocery store as he studied English on his own. He then had a one-year contract working as a paralegal before deciding to go to trucking school! Looking for adventure, Clement found it driving an 18-wheeler through the lower 48. After four years of driving cross-country in all kinds of weather and two years driving locally in Virginia, Clement and his wife realized it was important to continue their educations. They hoped they could do that in Maine. Clement's mother had moved to Portland years earlier, so Clement, his wife and his then two kids arrived in Maine two days before Thanksgiving, 2008. Clement and his wife now have a third child, a six month old baby, whom he proudly calls a "Mainer".

When they got here, Clement's wife enrolled in Portland Adult Education's GED program and obtained her diploma in five months. She is now studying for a degree in accounting at SMCC. Clement is currently taking a class at USM, with funding assistance from PESLSF, to improve his writing in English. At the same time, his university papers from the DRC have been translated from French to English to determine his appropriate placement at USM, which he plans to attend. Since he nearly completed his law degree, he's hoping he'll be able to enroll in a two-year master's program. He's concerned about the cost of law school, so he's also considering public policy, management or international development. Clement clearly is someone who is used to working and being a contributing member of his community. While he looks for a job, takes his writing class and waits to hear back about his USM placement, he has taken it upon himself to assist other newcomers to Portland. He helps them get settled by making phone calls on their behalf to find housing or taking them to buy groceries.

Clement says, "The scholarship is like a stepping stone for me. I arrived here almost 9 years ago and I didn't have a chance to go back to school or even to get the English classes I'm taking now because I didn't have the resources or the means. " Clement understands that English is the key to opening doors: "If you master English, you can go anywhere." He appreciates PESLSF giving him the opportunity to go back to school. "I consider this as my first door. It's the master key to complete my education. I really want to thank the fund for it."