AUSTIN (KXAN) – When Bienfait Yonyimiki came to Austin, he knew only a couple of words of English.
“[My] first day in school, I remember I went home and I asked my mom, ‘Why did we come here if it’s going to be like this?'”
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Yonyimiki, or ‘Fit’ as he is known by his teammates, learned English in large part by reading books and using Google Translate. He also found a home on the soccer field.
“A kid like ‘Fit’, an African refugee with very little English, has become almost like a brother to these either native-born Americans or first-generation Hispanic students,” said Northeast Early College Prep boys soccer coach Kyle Olson.
Born in Congo, Yonyimiki moved to Burundi in East Africa when he was three years old. He recalls struggles in everyday life, saying things were far from easy growing up.
“You’d go through a day not knowing if you were going to eat,” said Yonyimiki. “Not knowing what’s going to happen next. You were just there.”
Arriving in Austin at the age of 14, the Congo native kept playing the game he loved back home. He adjusted to some major differences like being able to play with cleats as opposed to barefoot.
“We’d get plastic bags and put them together, tie them with rope [and] that was our soccer ball,” said Yonyimiki. “So when I got here and they got all this type of equipment, I was like ‘I’m a pro now’ I guess.”
Having considered playing soccer at the next level, Yonyimiki chose a different route. After graduation in June, he’s set to enlist in the Marines.
“I like doing things that kind of have an impact on somebody’s life, not just myself,” said Yonyimiki. “That was kind of my motive. Especially when you’ve been helped your whole life.”
He leaves behind quite a legacy on the soccer field with the Raiders, having helped lead them to their best-ever season in 2022 with a regional final run. He is continuing to often practice with the team even after his senior season came to a close.