Then he met Kibebe
Back home in DR Congo, Shabani was a popular musician. He was respected and well known in the city he came from. However, all that changed when the civil war broke out and he decided to use music to attack the ethnic conflicts that the war bred. Shabani wrote a song that rubbed the wrong people the wrong way and he soon realized that he had made a dangerous blunder. Powerful people who were not amused by his song started sending him death threats and tracking his moves.
First, they murdered his parents.
Shabani was not safe. It was a matter of time before the people he offended got to him. His life was hanging by a thread. Desperate for his life, Shabani fled the country he had ever known and took refuge in Luwani Refugee Camp, a camp located on the southern border of Malawi, hundreds of kilometres from Malawi’s commercial city Blantyre.
His life as a refugee had taken shape. With nothing to survive on and faced with the dilemma of living in a strange country where he was literally unknown, Shabani had to use every opportunity at his disposal to earn a living. He thought using his music skills would help him make money. It would be simple, he thought. All he had to do was produce music or teach music and make cash.
He was wrong.
The local people he produced music for never paid him. They simply exploited his talent and disappeared. Shabani believes that this was due his refugee status. The locals took advantage of him. Shabani was broken. His financial status deteriorated and the situation was made worse since the only way Shabani thought would support his living had completely failed. The problems deepened when Shabani was transferred to Dzaleka Refugee Camp when Camp Luwani was closed. Dzaleka was no different from Luwani. In fact, Dzaleka was more terrible than the previous refugee camp. Shabani found himself in a settlement with over 40,000 refugees who competed for limited resources in the camp. His life was a mess. His living conditions declined. Everything was going awfully wrong.
To top it all, just a few months after arriving in Dzaleka, burglars raided his house, robbed him of his belongings and left him with a deep cut on his head that saw Shabani in and out of the hospital for six straight months. Shabani was left with a gashing wound, an empty house and a traumatic experience.
“I could not talk,” he recalled, “the concussion on my head was so severe that it affected my speech. I thought I was going to die.” It was during his recovery from the injury that Shabani met a woman, Moza, whom he later married. Unknown to him, his marriage to Moza would turn out to be the small jump that changed his life. Moza was a tailor and she gradually began teaching Shabani how to sew. Little by little, Shabani learned the skill and became an amateur tailor. Together with his wife, they would sew small items like shirts, pants and skirts which they sold to earn money. Shabani decided to invest more in the tailoring trade so he saved some money and bought a sewing machine. His new tailoring venture gave him something to support his living but he was not satisfied.
“I was not making enough. My wife and I had two kids by then and we needed something more than what we were making.” Shabani said, adding that he was also desiring to build his own house and what he made from the tailoring business could not cater for that need.
He had no idea that a surprise lay waiting around the corner. In 2016, when our social enterprise arm, Kibebe was hiring artisans from Dzaleka, Shabani and his wife were among the successful refugees who were recruited. It was the first-ever job that Shabani had since fleeing DRC and, he said, he was truly excited. Most importantly, Shabani’s employment with Kibebe boosted his financial capital and social status. Within a year of working with Kibebe, Shabani save enough money to build a house that he had been desperately looking for.
“I love the house; it is beautiful. It is floored with cement. I also bought a nice bed and some furniture for the house. We even have electricity. What more can a refugee ask for?” Shabani boasted. It is something that he is proud of. Shabani’s earnings from Kibebe is also helping him and his wife to pay rent for a shop that they are using for their tailoring business. He disclosed that he would not have been able to afford the rent if he were depending merely on the money he made as a tailor.
Shabani can also easily send his kids to school and afford the basic essentials necessary to raise the kids because of the pay he gets from Kibebe.
“I am raising my kids through Kibebe. They were born in the Kibebe era and I am raising them through what I earn.” He explained.
Besides the material benefits that Shabani is getting from Kibebe, he also cherishes the experience that he is attaining. He explained that he was merely an ordinary tailor who would sew basic things like shirts and suits but with Kibebe, his knowledge had widened. Kibebe artisans make a variety of products that are shipped overseas and Shabani said that his involvement with Kibebe has enabled him to become a professional tailor.
“I should tell you that Kibebe really helped me. I have changed a lot and my family is living testimony. Each day, I wake up happy and smiling because of Kibebe.” Shabani summed up his story.