Pastor raises more than $250,000 for Des Moines children orphaned after icy car crash

These children lost their father on Friday in an icy car crash. Their mother died in August during childbirth. Now five children are left without their parents. They are refugees from Democratic Republic of the Congo who just moved to Des Moines two years ago.

By Philip Joens, Des Moines Register

An online fundraiser has raised more than $250,000 for five children orphaned after their father died Friday during a car crash in icy conditions.

Bazirake Kariya, 30, was driving on Iowa Highway 330 in Marshall County at about 2:05 p.m. Friday when his car was found in a creek, according to a news release from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.


Freezing rain late Friday and into the evening hours caused roadways to be covered with ice across Iowa. State Patrol troopers helped 133 motorists and responded to 77 crashes after freezing rain hit central and southern Iowa on Friday.

Kariya was driving to his job at the JBS pork processing plant in Marshalltown when the crash happened, said Eugene Kiruhura, the senior pastor at Urbandale’s Shalom Covenant Church, who said he’d known the family for about a year.

Kiruhura started a GoFundMe fundraiser for Kariya’s five children over the weekend. He said the family moved to the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of the Congo three years ago and moved to Des Moines two years ago. The children’s mother died during childbirth in August.

The children range in age from 4 months old to 10 years old. Their grandparents are now taking care of the family, but one is sick, and neither has a job, food or anywhere to live, Kiruhura said.

His fundraiser set a goal of raising $60,000 to cover funeral expenses and create a fund to help the children.


“The goal was to get the money for the funeral and pay the rent for a few months,” Kiruhura said.


After that goal was quickly met, the goal was changed to $200,000. As of Wednesday morning, the fundraiser had raised more than $260,000. Kiruhura said he was surprised at how generous people have been. Once it took off, his congregation hoped to raise more money for other expenses.

“They will need a lot of things,” Kiruhura said. “They will need a car. They will go to school. They need to eat. They don’t have anyone who is working for them. By raising this money, it will help them for (the) long-term.”


People can also write checks to Shalom Covenant Church at 7605 Aurora Ave. to donate.

Kiruhura himself came to the U.S. as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2007. In 2014, the church was started as a way to serve and bring together people primarily from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.

He said the accident was devastating to the Congolese community here. But he and the children trust in God.

“These kids will see their Dad, their Mom in Heaven,” Kiruhura said. “We never complain to God. He will take care of them.”

Philip Joens covers breaking news for The Des Moines Register. He can be reached at 515-443-3347 at [email protected] or on Twitter @Philip_Joens.

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