When Kelvin Ndayisaba tells his story, it is both amusing and, to a certain extent, alarming. He narrates the tale with a visible expression of disbelief and gratitude on his face. Disbelief because he did not foresee a sudden positive transformation in his life and gratitude because he was offered what he calls “a turning point”
We took a dusty road outside Dzaleka refugee camp, turned north and headed towards some distant hills. The motorbike we were riding billowed dust and gravel as we sped past huts, trees, small farms, a couple of ox-carts and herds of livestock.
When Jacqueline Hoya heard the news that she had been selected to commence a degree in education at Chancellor College, she danced with excitement! Her goal of going to college had finally been realized. Who would not dance anyway? She had worked hard for this day and the effort had ultimately paid off. A year back, she had re-sat her secondary school examinations and she passed with top results.
Have you ever heard of the name ‘Kanisa Ndugu’? Maybe not. Well, the term is Swahili and it translates to ‘Sister Church’. Setting up a church in a foreign country, especially when one is a refugee, can be a hard assignment. Many refugees lack the financial muscle, material and even moral support to plant churches or run those already established.
It was dark when the attackers crept into the refugee camp. The girl was fast asleep when the first gunshot rang. She woke up with a start. She had been exposed to a conflict zone before to miss the unmistakable clap of gun fire. More shots followed and bullets whizzed past. The camp went berserk. Screams from terrified people flooded the scene.
Somewhere in Dowa district, in a village called Lilambwe, there is a girl named Esinala. Every morning at 8 AM, she bids farewell to her parents, shoulders her bag and sets for Dzaleka Trading Centre – a journey that takes about an hour on foot. Although the trip is long and exhausting, Esinala keeps a smile on her face knowing that she will return home later that afternoon with some money.
When we walked into the compound on that cloudless Thursday afternoon of 6 March 2017, the place was buzzing with kids. Jolly male and female schoolchildren donning sky blue ponchos as uniforms played within the premises, some chasing each other around while others simply watched the fun from a distance. A group of teachers meekly supervised the kids as a few other teachers who sat on chairs socialized with some of the children.
There is nothing more disturbing than an internal wrangle among family members. The circumstance is even more troubling if the family feuds lead to tortures and force members to escape to another country. Moving from a peaceful settlement straight into refugee life because one is threatened by their own relatives is a gruesome challenge.
When Bulaiton Natison graduated from the carpentry class of our vocational training programme earlier this year, he had a serious ambition – to launch his own carpentry business. It was a dream he was planning to pursue. Bulaiton realized that setting up a small business workshop would also go a long way towards self sustenance. He had received a set of toolkits after he graduated, of course, but the tools were not sufficient to launch a full scale small workshop.
That was what Aubrey Banda boldly told us. Aubrey is a carpenter. He graduated from our carpentry class in 2015. In a rural community where Aubrey comes from, earning even 5 thousand Kwacha is considered quite an achievement. Today, the man can make 30 thousand Kwacha per week but that was not the case in the past.