Montana Treasure: Soft Landing helps refugees resettle in Montana

MISSOULA -- Hundreds of people escaping war and persecution now have new lives in Montana. That's all in thanks to a non-profit called "Soft Landing."

Four-year-old Josephine loves to play with toys after preschool. She loves to make people smile. 

But unlike most four-year-olds, she's lived in two different countries. Born in a refugee camp in Tanzania, where she and her family stayed before resettling in America. Josephine now calls Missoula, home. 

Three years ago her family, the Lumona's, resettled in Missoula in search of a better life, away from the violence in their home country. 

"There was war, that’s why we left [the Democratic Republic of] Congo," Kasse Lumona, Josephine's father said.  

Josephine's parents now have full-time jobs in Missoula. Their nine and five-year-old sons, including Josephine are in school. They have an infant who was born in Montana.

"Now we are in America, a place where there is so much peace, I love that," Kasse said. 

Kasse's family was able to resettle and start a new life in Missoula thanks to the help of soft landing, a non-profit that helps resettle refugees in Montana. 

"Currently Soft Landing serves about 45 families that are here in Missoula," Mary Poole, the director of Soft Landing said.    

Since the fall of 2016, the organization has helped around 300 refugees get full-time jobs, is set to graduate students with high school diplomas this year and get settled into their new lives as Montanans. 

It's a mission that met resistance at first. Some protested bringing refugees to Montana. Poole said it's proof that Dr. Martin Luther King's message is as important now as it was some 60 years ago. 

"In lieu of Dr. Martin Luther King and that dream of creating a space in which our children can thrive regardless of color and race, I think that we are on our way of doing that here," Poole said. "I don’t think that word is unfortunately ever done."

As the family prepares to mark three years in Montana, Kasse finds comfort in knowing that his children will never know the violence him and his wife left behind. 

An organization helping refugees start new lives. Soft Landing is this week's Montana Treasure.

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