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Nothing but an abandoned destitute

“My name is Pamphil,” he started and allowed his voice to briefly trail off into the gush of the soft wind that was breezing by. He cleared his throat and shifted on the small wooden chair that he was sitting on. He quietly stared into the horizon then heaved a soft sigh. Pamphil took a short deep breath in what seemed like he was recollecting his thoughts and then…

“I am a refugee from DR Congo,” he continued. Pamphil has been living in Dzaleka Refugee Camp for close to seven years now but unlike the average refugee who are trapped in the vicious and inevitable cycle of poverty, Pamphil is a qualified plumber and can ably make a living. It is something that he is proud of because seven years ago when Pamphil and his young sister stepped foot in Dzaleka, he was – in his own words– “nothing but an abandoned destitute”.  The painful recollection of those early stages of his stay in Dzaleka left a deep emotional scar that Pamphil never thought he would never recover from. As someone who was used to the good life back home in DRC prior to fleeing the country, Pamphil now faced a life where he would start everything from scratch and worse with no support. The frustration this brought upon the young man was unparalleled.

To top the frustration, Pamphil 16-year-old sister was dependent on him. The two had suddenly landed in a world where the only people they had were each other. They were alone in a new different and difficult world. And as a man, he was essentially the breadwinner and the responsibility of caring for his sister rested on Pamphil’s shoulders. But with no bread to win, Pamphil’s survival in the camp hang by a thread.

“It was a burden that weighed down on me with each passing day. I felt worthless. I had a bad life,” Pamphil admitted. At times, Pamphil would run small errands in people’s households, such as fetching water or sweeping yards, to earn a little something that he would use to buy a meal for his sister and himself. Pamphil admitted that these jobs were embarrassing but it is not like he had a choice anyway.

When he looks back at the events of his past life and his present state, Pamphil explained that he has seen a notable change. The change is attributed to a technical skill in plumbing that he attained from our Vocational Training Programme three years ago. Pamphil graduated from our skills training programme in 2018 and that was how he found himself on the path to transformation. The small step towards that path began in the same year when we implemented a 2-year project with funding from the European Union. During the construction phase of the project, Pamphil was among a group of students that were recruited to help in construction. It was the first time Pamphil would earn his own money through a respectable job.

The excitement was overwhelming.

“I almost wept when I received my first wages. It was something I never imagine could happen in my life,” Pamphil said. But that was only the beginning. Months later, he secured a job as a plumber at another construction site just outside Dzaleka Refugee Camp. Pamphil was among the team that was installing the pipe works at the site. Pamphil explained that all he ever wanted was the financial muscle to provide food and shelter for himself and his young sister. With the new job, he is gradually building that financial muscle. Outside the job, Pamphil coordinates with a group of Malawian plumbers who are regularly hired in different places, mostly in the city, to do different types of plumbing works. These plumbers also graduated from our training programme. These regular side jobs are further supplementing Pamphil’s income base.

Pamphil is looking beyond merely putting food on the table. Currently, he lives in a shelter provided by a church but he is adamant that he will move out soon. His plan is to build his own house. He has since started saving some money to achieve that wish. It is the most ambitious plan Pamphil has but he is quite sure he will achieve it. Proudly, Pamphil explained that he is now a responsible man because he can ably care for his little sister. He has revitalized his self-respect and he no longer feels worthless, he said.

Pamphil is also an inspiration to fellow refugees. He has motivated several fellow young refugees to join our skills training programme. His goal, he said, is to get as many refugees to the training programme as possible because he has seen how technical skills can lift a struggling refugee from misery to the good life.

“I have happiness in my heart. There is hope in my life,”