Burundi Refugees in Mbarara
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.
Afrinspire has funded English lessons for refugees at the DSC, as well as provided training in gardening and baking. 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.
Afrinspire have also sponsored seven young Burundians to study full time at the Development Centre.
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.
With a small injection of some funds, English language lessons were started last November at the DSC alongside some training in making chapati's and samosa and some intensive gardening. 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.
The group has helped people to support each other rather than to be just isolated on thier own.
In February we were treated to a display of Burundian dancing before a demonstration of chapati making and a time of listening to the stories of the refugees. Many thanks were expressed about the lessons, and the giving of hope that they demonstrate.
There is not space for all the stories but here are a few statements from members of this group, who are only just recently picking up the English…
"I’m a refugee, I come from Burundi because there is a war. The members of my family are seven. We pray for our country to have peace. We thank the country of Uganda for this welcome of the Burundians. At last we say thank you to you for this assistance to learn English. It is better for our people to speak English because in Burundi we are in a French system"
‘Good afternoon! I’m here, like refugees from Burundi. Thank you for remembering us, for teaching us the English language. So when I came here, I didn’t speak any words in English but now, when I’m going in the supermarket to buy some foods, to the hospital, etc. I try to speak English very well. It means that now I know English more than last time that I was a newcomer here."
The first group had 24 learners, starting with sixteen and as news spread more joined. Congolese refugees also joined. Now this first group is starting their small businesses and seven young people have been able to start on certificates and diplomas at the Development Study Centre to continue their education (supported for their first term by an Afrinspire donor).
The next group of 20 learners has now started. The teachers are from Burundi who speak local language as well as French and English.
We need funding to help these businesses start up and also to meet a major request which is cultural. The group would like to have some Burundian drums in order to keep their culture alive among themselves. Burundi is famous for it's drumming - some say it is the best in Africa.
Please email us to see the various funding proposals for the language training, small enterprises or drums if you think you might be able to help.