Burundian refugees arrived on our doorstep at the Development Studies Centre (DSC) in Uganda having escaped genocide in their country. In engaging with and supporting the refugees, the crisis has transformed into a story of cultural integration, education and income generation.
Many refugees from Burundi have arrived in Uganda, mostly in refugee camps near the Tanzania border but about 500 have arrived in the Kakoba suburb of Mbarara town. The most pressing need was to learn English as most were only French speaking and found it difficult in Uganda where English is the main language in common around the country. Although most of these refugees arrived with some money it became obvious that their intended short stay outside Burundi was to become a permanent one as persecution of their group became worse as the months went on.
Afrinspire has funded English lessons for refugees at the DSC, as well as provided training in gardening and baking. The aim is to give the refugees some simple and quick skills which will allow them to do some selling and begin to bring in some money to support themselves.
Similarly, the Kirundi Cultural Group was created that allows refugees to perform traditional Burundian drumming and dancing. These activities have drawn isolated individuals together and provided a sense of purpose as well as an opportunity to generate income, all of which are essential to refugees who have been violently displaced and face otherwise unpredictable futures.
"I’m here, like refugees from Burundi. Thank you for remembering us, for teaching us the English language. When I came here, I didn’t speak any words in English but now...I try to speak English very well."
Refugee from Burundi