Independence Day 2017

Posted on July 5, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Lives Lit Up by Catholic Charities

Fresh back from celebrating Independence Day - marking the moment 241 years ago when immigrants hailing from across the Atlantic first honored our nation’s birth - we today share a new story of jubilation. With your help, Catholic Charities helps for our neighbors in need regain their own independence. This is the third in our five-part series mapping out those we serve at Catholic Charities. Meet two of them now.

Melake & Sebentu


Melake and Sebentu married in 1995 in Eritrea, where military conscription is mandatory and indefinite. For eight years, Melake saw his wife, family and friends only on rare periods of leave — roughly 10 days a year.

On a visit home in 2005, Melake held a meeting with villagers about a plan to criticize the repressive Eritrean government. His actions attracted the attention of the authorities, and he was arrested.

Fearing the horrors that awaited him in jail, Melake fled across the African country’s border to Ethiopia and made his way to a refugee camp, braving horrific conditions and rationed food and water for a chance to eventually get to the United States. In 2013, Melake received legal refugee status and arrived in New York.

Three years later, with the help of Catholic Charities, Sebentu was granted refugee status and at last joined her husband.

Catholic Charities helps immigrants reunite legally with their families, obtain proper work authorization, learn English and civics, and prepare to pass citizenship exams. We also provide correct information and realistic counsel about immigration status, helping immigrants avoid exploitation by unscrupulous practitioners.

Last April, the couple welcomed their first child. Catholic Charities helped the couple to buy a crib, a stroller and baby clothes. Delighted with her growing family, Sebentu, 41, works part time at a hardware store, and hopes to enroll in nursing school soon. Melake, 38, works six days a week at a restaurant and is considering becoming a cabdriver.

“We’re going to work hard,” he says. “We need a good life.”

These aren’t just stories. These are our neighbors. Please give generously to the 2017 Annual Fund so we can continue to look after the most vulnerable among us — now, and for years to come.

Donate online now at:

Catholic Charities is responding to the needs of our neighbors during the 
COVID-19 pandemic.

For Help Call 888-744-7900