Our Origin Story

In December 2016, Alison Hoeman was the ELL teacher at an elementary school on the east side of Des Moines. A new family would soon be starting—three young boys in fifth, second, and kindergarten, who had recently arrived from a refugee camp in Tanzania. A couple days before winter break, their mom came to school with the boys and a three-year-old for a tour, to meet teachers, and ask questions. A couple days later, the interpreter called to tell Alison the family was moving . . . they had been living with another family of six in a 1,200 square foot house down the street from the school but both families finally found their own respective houses and were moving on January 1. Alison asked through the interpreter if the family needed anything. “We need everything” was the answer. Alison asked for some donations and took many clothes, toys, and other items to the family. She received so many donations that she asked the interpreter for addresses of other families in need, and the day after Christmas 2016, she and her husband and a friend filled up three SUVs and drove all over Des Moines handing out essentials to 10 families. Des Moines Refugee Support was effectively born.  

Though they moved away and didn’t attend her school, Alison already loved these little boys, and began taking them to activities—the zoo, Adventureland, the pool. She asked the interpreter every time to call their mom and ask if she could pick up the boys. After a couple months, the interpreter said to her, “their mom says you can take them whenever you want, she trusts you, she knows that you are going to take care of them and bring them home safely.”  

Over Spring Break, Alison signed them up for a soccer camp at Drake. She had enlisted some friends to help with the driving, and one driver announced that on day two of camp, there were two extra kids waiting with their soccer things on. This would become a common occurrence. At the end of the week, the soccer coaches pulled Alison aside and told her that the new addition was an excellent soccer player, and that the oldest of the family also had a lot of potential, and both needed to be placed on a team ASAP. They were in. They quickly showed they were way too good for the “Rec” team, so the next year they tried out for the select team with West Des Moines, and both made it. The extra kid, Stani, played soccer for the next six years with the support of DMRS, and DMRS volunteer Sara Kizzier became his legal guardian when his family moved to Kentucky as he wanted to finish out school at Hoover. He now plays soccer at South Dakota Wesleyan.  

The three younger boys all joined soccer teams and are widely considered to be the best players on their respective teams.  

The family now lives in their third house (the kids switching schools every time since their first move), but they are purchasing this house, and so we are confident they will stay there.  

In July 2017, the mom had a baby girl and named her Alison.