Iowa Congolese Organization and Center for Healing
We strive to empower the Congolese community of Central Iowa by creating economic opportunities and delivering community driven assistance.
A place in which Congolese of Central Iowa have the means they need to create opportunities to realize their potential and for all to live with dignity.
ICOACH's purpose is to support the Congolese community of central Iowa to heal, educate, advocate and develop programs that expand economic opportunities.
Violence in the Congo hasn’t changed in recent years.
There are more than 2.5 million displaced Congolese people. Many have suffered from war, poverty, sexual abuse and other human rights violations. And more than half of them are children. These individuals have had poor access to education and virtually no exposure to English.
As a result, Congolese Iowans face language, cultural, emotional and physical barriers that make adjusting to their new home state extremely difficult.
On August 13th, 2004 rebels from the National Liberation Forces brutally attacked the Gatumba refugee camp in western Burundi. ICOACH founders Boaz and Alex, as well as many other refugees from the Banyamulenge ethnic group, lost parents, siblings, and dear friends. Since then, nearly 8,000 Congolese people have made a new life in Iowa.
The ICOACH team members are all former Congolese refugees who once faced the same challenges newly arrived refugees are facing now. We are all survivors who found the perseverance to create a new community for ourselves in Iowa. As people who now thrive as college graduates, home owners, and faith leaders, we are best able to use our experience to help members of our community.
Boaz Rutekereza Nkingi, Founder & President
Boaz was born and raised in the village called Vyura, in Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2007, Boaz was resettled to Saint Louis Missouri with his mother and two cousins. After Boaz found out that there were other cousins who were resettled in Des Moines he and his mother and cousins decided to move to join them. Boaz holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Media Production and Mass Communication from Grand View University and has two professional Certificates in Nonprofit and National Services serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Boaz is very passionate about helping people. He loves singing in a choir and enjoys editing PSAs and videos.
Alexis Muhire Gatoni, Co-founder & Youth Coordinator
Alexis was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was seven years old when he was forced to flee his home country. Alexis came to Des Moines in 2009 from Burundi, a border country where he was being taken care of in an orphanage. He went on to graduate from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines and is currently working on his Associate Degree at Des Moines Area Community College studying Management Information System (MIS). Alexis is inspired to share his survival story and his hope with many other refugees and other people who may be experiencing any form of hardship. Alexis enjoys playing Piano and acoustic guitar in a band setting.
Yvonne Munanira, Treasurer
Yvonne Munanira came to U.S with her family in 2008 as a refugee. She attended high school in Urbandale and later studied Accounting and Business at Buena Vista University. She now works at a prestigious insurance company as a young professional. Her number one passion is to give back to the community which helped her. Her approach is to work directly with the community. In her free time she enjoys church, going on adventures as well as spending time with family and friends.
Eugene Kiruhura, Community Navigator & Family Advocate
Eugene was born in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo, but was forced to flee the Congo in 2004 because of civil war. Eugene was resettled in Des Moines, Iowa, where he has lived since 2007. Eugene graduated with an Associate Degree from I.S.T.C.E./Accounting UVIRA/Democratic Republic of Congo, and has engaged in additional theological studies since coming to Des Moines. In 2015, Eugene received a Bi-Vocational Ministry license through the Midwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and is currently employed part time with Lutheran Services of Iowa as a Bilingual Community Associate.
Eugene loves people and has a heart of compassion to care for the needs of others while remaining humble and respectful toward God and people.
Aline Nkinzingabo, Women & Health Advocate Coordinator
Aline Nkinzingabo was resettled in Abilene, Texas in 2007 from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is passionate about women's health and hopes to support Congolese women as an advocate.