The word "welcome" echoed throughout Hancock Airport on Wednesday afternoon, as a family of 8 originally from the Congo made their first steps in America.
The welcoming was a long time coming, as parishioners from St. Ann's Church in Manlius have been working for months to make the family, the Mogushus, have a smooth transition.
"These people are coming from a war-torn country, where they don't have the same opportunities that we have in this country," Dina DeSorbo, the Chairperson of the St. Ann's Refugee Relocation Committee says. "It just feels really good for us to take a little bit of our time and money and energy to make a real difference for this family, it's really gratifying."
There were balloons, signs and smiling faces as the Mogushus walked through Hancock Airport...a welcoming they were not expecting.
"We're really very, very happy to get here in New York...people welcomed us this way, they welcomed us as if we were their family, and that's something we weren't expecting," Balegereze Mugushu, the father of the family, said through an interpreter.
The family speaks Swahili, and very little English, but some of St. Ann's younger members decided they wanted to put their own mark on the transition by making a homemade book for the six Mogushu children to learn from.
"I made that book with English words so they could adjust to America," Emma Gelatta, a St. Ann's Parishioner and middle school student at F-M, says.
It is a transition that will be made easier because of efforts like Gelattas and the rest of the St. Ann's community, as they donated televisions, furniture and their time to make the Mogushu's apartment on Syracuse's North side a comfortable home. The group filled two Pods storage units with supplies.
For the family, having such comfortable and pleasant conditions to transition to is important, and light years away from their difficult life in a Malawi refugee camp.
Once again speaking through an interpreter, Mogushu says, "It was really important for us to leave. Life in the camp was really difficult, the children didn't study, there was no school for them to go to, we often didn't have enough food to eat, we suffered a lot."
The community at St. Ann's hopes their contributions, both past and future, help the Mogushus have a better life here in Central New York.