I am an ordinary person, with an ordinary life. Nothing particularly remarkable about me or my circumstances. But, that's the thing about life, isn't it? It's not always about the things we have or the places we go, but about the journey we take and the lessons we learn along the way.
I was born and raised in a refugee camp, far away from the comfort of a home country. Growing up, my life was not easy. Every day came with its own challenges, and I had to learn how to survive in a harsh world from an early age. Although I have never been comfortable sharing my story, I have come to appreciate it as a unique experience that has shaped who I am today. My story was full of sad memories, I thought it was not worth sharing and I was not sure how people would receive it. Whenever people asked me about my childhood, I would give brief and direct answers, hoping to avoid further questions.
Growing up in a refugee camp, we did not have access to basic needs that many people take for granted. Not everyone was lucky to have electricity, and we had to rely on candles or lanterns to light up our houses at night. Clean water was scarce, and we had to walk long distances to fetch it. Despite these challenges, we tried our best to make the most of what we had. For many of my family and friends, this remains their day-to-day experience.
Education was not a priority in the camp, and many children had to drop out of school to help their families make ends meet. The other contributing factor was the fact that we had no idea what we would use the education for after we graduated. The Government of Malawi still has an encampment policy that restricts refugees from certain rights such as access to tertiary education and formal employment. I witnessed many young people giving up on their dreams. A lot of them ended up in drugs and substance abuse. Young girls ended up in early marriages as the only option they had. I saw people being mistreated, discriminated against and harassed due to their vulnerability. These experiences left a lasting impact on me, and I became more aware of the injustices in the world.
Although I have never been comfortable sharing my story, I have come to appreciate it as a unique experience that has shaped who I am today.- Divine Irakoze
Despite the challenges, I have come to appreciate my unique story. My experiences have taught me resilience, empathy, and the importance of helping others. They have shaped me into the person I am today and inspired me to pursue a career in humanitarian work and make a positive impact in the world. I’m currently doing my Bachelor's in International studies in the USA and it has been an amazing journey so far. The journey to the United States was filled with mixed emotions, but I knew it was an opportunity to break free from the constraints of my past. I said goodbye to my family, who had supported me despite our struggles.
Over time, I am finding the courage and pride to share my story with others. I realised that my experiences were not something to be ashamed of but rather something to be celebrated. Sharing my story has allowed me to connect with people from different walks of life and has inspired others to share their stories.
I miss my family, friends, and loved ones. I know life in the camp only keeps getting harder. A place where you sleep not knowing where the next meal will come from. No hope for escape. No hope of when and how you will get out of that situation. But above all, we keep fighting, praying and hoping.
My experiences have taught me resilience, empathy, and the importance of helping others.- Divine Irakoze