By Julie Peterson, CNN
Clarkston, Georgia (CNN) - Mubonge and Masasu Twachoka arrive home from a chicken processing factory at 3 a.m., ending another 19-hour day. Five hours later, it’s time to get the kids to school.
But there’s no complaining on the part of the Twachokas, just long days, short nights and lots of hard work.
The Twachokas live in Clarkston, Georgia, but their journey to the United States has been long and difficult.
Mubonge Twachoka, 44, is from Congo. He married his wife, a Rwandan woman, in 1990. They have five children, including a 19-year-old son with special needs who uses a wheelchair.
Mubonge Twachoka, who used to work as a nurse, and his wife fled Congo almost a decade ago because of safety concerns. They said they were targeted because their marriage was considered “mixed.” They escaped to a United Nations refugee camp in Tanzania, where they claimed official refugee status.
Over the next eight years, the family lived in several Tanzanian camps. As official U.N.-designated refugees, they awaited an invitation for residency from a “safe” country.
While in the camps, Twachoka continued to offer his services as a nurse.
“I did that job because I didn't want to be like a homeless person. I wanted to help my fellow refugees. If you're helping your fellow refugees, you feel better,” he said.
About 15 million people are living in such camps worldwide, experts estimate. According to U.N. estimates, about 73,000 arrived in the United States in 2010, which is when the Twachokas received their invitation to the United States. For them it was a fresh start: a new language, a new culture, a new location. They eagerly boarded a plane to Atlanta and started their lives again, carrying little more than optimism and hope in their hearts.
"Refugees are the invited guests of the United States. They are not illegal immigrants," said Emily Pelton, who runs Refugee Family Services, a nonprofit focused on helping women and children. Her agency helps families once they are settled in the Clarkston, Georgia, area, which is home to thousands of refugees.
“Welcoming refugees into our country is the noble and patriotic thing to do. We have to remember that refugees are part of our nation’s history and fabric,” she said.
Pelton says learning the English language is the first step in the process of acclimating to a new land. Mubonge Twachoka, who is fluent in five other languages, is learning the language of his new country by taking 16 hours of class each week, working toward his GED at Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
Their long days at the chicken factory might seem like mundane work for someone trained to save lives, but Twachoka said he is grateful for the opportunity to work, earn money and afford food and clothes for his children.
After raising their children in a camp for eight years, a place without electricity and little privacy, Clarkston offers an opportunity for the Twachoka family to improve their quality of life.
Being able to freely practice their religion, travel at will, and, most important, living in a place where their children feel safe are just a few aspects of the family’s new life for which they are profoundly grateful.