23 YEARS LATER: Man describes finding refuge in Texas from the R - KXXV Central Texas News Now

23 YEARS LATER: Man describes finding refuge in Texas from the Rwandan Genocide as a child, leaving his biological family behind

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In the 100 days between April and July in 1994, 800,000 people died in the Rwandan Genocide in Africa.

Central Texas News Now spoke to one Central Texan who not only survived the massacre, but is now taking the world by storm.  

"I lost my entire family, my biological father and all the relatives related to my parents," Genocide Survivor, Adalgis Smith said. "It was 2 tribes that were conflicting and fighting the Tutsi's and the Hutu's and one tribe wasn't happy with the other one and so they ended up massacring and killing each other."

So many of Smith's family members died in the genocide that all that is left are his two older brothers, a younger sister and his mother.

"It was very traumatic, it was very hard asking your parent how come we don't have family reunions and how come I don't have a father," Smith said.

And even though he and three of his siblings survived, it wasn't easy. His brother was tossed into a pit of dead bodies and left for days while his sister was threatened with sexual abuse. His mom had to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save her children.

"She did all she could to help us for a better life and move to a country where there wasn't anybody to harm us," Smith added.

Smith's mother got a Pilgrimage Visa which allowed her to send only two children to America. His mother sent Adalgis and his younger sister while she stayed behind with his two brothers.

Smith and his sister's journey began in Maine, but after that foster home asked them to leave - their journey led to Plano, Texas. That's where he and his sister were enrolled in Plano ISD and just as they were getting comfortable, their second foster home couldn't keep them any longer.

"At 15, I was very anxious, and I was very worried and all I could do was pray and hope whoever steps in to take care of me was a person that has love," Smith said.

He found that love. 

"We just were heartbroken by his situation so we tried to brainstorm what we could do," Plano ISD Teacher Linda Angelhard said.

And the solution seemed to be closer than they realized.


"Burt just called me, and he said, 'What if I told you that we could possibly have a kid, and I was like that would be unbelievable,'" Adalgis' Adoptive Mother, Jami Smith said.

Burt Smith was the principal of Adalgis' high school in Plano, he and his wife Jami had been trying to have kids but health reasons weren't allowing that to happen so they started applying to adopt children.

"If I had a prayer it would be that I could have children by Christmas and December 14th we got to go pick up our kids," Jami said.

In 2011, The Smiths officially adopted Adalgis and his sister. They now live in Salado where Burt is the Assistant Superintendent for the school district. He says the decision to grow his family by two was the easiest decision of his life.

"We never questioned it, and from the first day they have been our children and we have always considered them that," Adalgis' Adoptive father, Burt Smith said.

In May of 2017, Adalgis graduated from A&M Central Texas with a Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Business and is working as a banker. His sister is a United States Marine stationed in San Diego.

Adalgis' mother and two brothers are still in Africa facing turmoil, but he said he believes everything will be okay because all that happens is just a part of the path to get you where you are going.

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