Virginia at Work: Young Leader Survives Refugee Camps to Become Successful CEO

Local News

For the month of February, we want to introduce you to a leader who inspires.

Baraka Kasongo is not your average “Millenial.” 
He was born in war-torn Rwanda, witnessed the horrors of genocide and lived seven years in refugee camps throughout Africa before finally escaping to the United States and settling in Roanoke.

Today, he is a father, husband and CEO of his own company, Volatia Language Network.

His Roanoke company employs 8 people in house, and thousands of others who offer 24/7 interpretation services within seconds, wherever they are needed throughout the U.S.

“What I love about being a small business owner is – we learn through failure. A lot of people have a hard time embracing failure. Or when they fail, they simply stop. If I counted how many times I failed, how many mistakes I’ve made, all my goodness, we’d be here all day,” says Baraka Kasongo, CEO of Volatia Language Network.

It’s those mistakes, that allowed Baraka Kasongo to build a successful team.

His success stems from his survival.  He escaped the genocide and war in Rwanda in 1994. The next 7 years brought his family through refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia, before they finally arrived in the United State, settling in Roanoke.

Kasongo says, “The more a person endures challenges, two things are going to happen.  It’s either, we are going to rise above it, and grow from that ,or it’s going to impact us in a negative way and we quit. For me and my experience, all of the challenges that I lived through, they really helped me to become stronger and grow to who I’ve become.:

Volatia Language Network stems from Kasongo’s early days in the U.S. as a teenager.

He says, “I started to receive phone calls from local hospitals and social service government agencies, requesting for help, in dealing with languages that I spoke.”

Cortex Leadership Consulting CEO, Lynda McNutt Foster has had the privilege or working with the younger leader and says he benefits from being coachable and can quickly take what he’s learned and put it into action.

She adds, “Everything to him is his next challenge. He never feels like a victim. He never goes into that space. Any obstacle that he has, he finds a way to work through it, with other people.”

Early in his career, Baraka said he spent his money on coaches, on building a strong foundation and team.

“Cheap is expensive. Trying to save money, from doing everything yourself, you end up spending more time and the true value of what we do is time. So if you’re spending more time, you’re actually wasting money.”

His advice to other leaders, and those who aspire to move forward … remember, you don’t need to know everything.
This CEO says his company is a perfect example … Volatia provides Kasongo’s expertise, which is live interpretation services, but utlizes
cutting edge technology, which his company developed thanks to the help of others.

“Sure, I understand a bit of IT, but I did not develop any of our systems. What I did was put together the vision of what we needed to achieve,” says Kasongo.

The path Baraka Kosango has blazed … is just the beginning.
With the ability to translate hundreds of languages at any given time, he sees a future for Volatia that will one day extend well beyond U.S. borders.

Success he fuels by his passion to help others.

“He works incredibly hard. He is a testament to the American dream,” says Foster.

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