“What is your dream?”: Testimonies for World Refugee Day
The Global Displacement Crisis is one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian disasters. 70.8 million people are currently living through forced displacement. 25.9 million of them are refugees — people who have crossed a border seeking safety — and 3.5 million are asylum seekers. On World Refugee Day 2019, hear the dreams of the people who live the refugee crisis every day. We asked refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and host community members in Colombia¹, Germany², Greece³, Kenya⁴ & South Sudan⁵ to share their dreams, the things that give them strength, and what they want the world to know about them. Scroll down to see what they said. On World Refugee Day 2019, hear the dreams of the people who live the refugee crisis every day. We asked refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and host community members in Colombia¹, Germany², Greece³, Kenya⁴ & South Sudan⁵ to share their dreams, the things that give them strength, and what they want the world to know about them. Scroll down to see what they said. In some cases, names and biographical details have been changed or removed to protect the safety of people at risk.
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Kenya — Refugees & Host Community at Kakuma Refugee Camp & Kalobeyei Settlement, Turkana County
Isra left Sudan in 2003 when she was five or six years old.
What is your dream?: “I want to go to university and study social work. I want to build a house for my family. I want to go back to Sudan as a successful person and help. I want to help girls so they don’t get married at 15. I want to teach them about opportunities. I will teach them to take care of themselves, the value of girls in society, and how girls are living in other parts of the world.”
What do you want the world to know about refugees?: “Refugees who are suffering don’t have a voice. I want people to care about Sudan. I want people to care about justice, peace, and development in Sudan.”
What is your dream?: “I want to acquire the best education to the highest level. I want to study medicine and become a doctor. I am taking online classes with a tablet about medicine now.”
What do you want the world to know about refugees?: “I want the world to be made aware of the risks and challenges when young girls are impregnated and left alone. My mother was impregnated by a man she did not know and was left alone. She did not have support.”
Betty left South Sudan three years ago.
What is your dream?: “I want to be a leader in South Sudan. I want to sit down with the President and talk about how the development and lives of people can be better.”
What has helped you overcome all that you’ve experienced?: “Only God. I take my courage from God. If it wasn’t for God’s grace, you would have found me in a grave. It is because of the prayers of my friends and husband.”
Uwimbabazi came from Burundi in 2016.
What is your dream?: “I am hoping that my life will someday be more positively transformed than if I was back home. I want to see my children go to school and get a proper, quality education. I want to get better job opportunities so I can take care of my children.”
What has helped you overcome all that you’ve experienced?: “I never knew that there were people and organizations that support refugees. I learned that there were people who made my problems less. I met people like you who talked to me, counseled me through my past, and gave me hope. The skills I learned from humanitarian workers helped me support my husband. Now I feel empowered.”
Muoch left South Sudan in July 2015.
What is your dream?: “I want my kids to have a good life and have total support of their father. I love my kids more than anything. I want my kids to grow up in a good environment and go to school so they can become good people that serve their community.”
What has helped you get through all you have experienced?: “I am confident in my resilience. Things will change. Life is challenging but possible. I can’t lose hope. I am teaching my kids the same resilience.”
Abdullah left Sudan when he was 13 years old.
What is your dream?: “[In Kenya] I want to advocate for the rights of the refugees to learn and open businesses. [In Sudan] I want to go back to Sudan and advocate for citizenship to be respected.”
What has helped you get through all you have experienced?: “I am very resilient. I don’t give up. I persevered to learn even as the schools closed.”
What do you want the world to know about refugees?: “I want people to know what is happening in a different part of the world. I want them to know what we are going through.”
Jenika came from South Sudan in 2017.
What is your dream?: “I want to do something productive for my children. I want to change their lives. I want them to pursue education.”
What do you want the world to know about refugees?: “Life is hard. I came here to avoid the conflict with my 7 children. It is hard to even provide uniforms for my children. I had to sell my rice and sacrifice my food to provide uniforms for my children.”
Colonel Kasili Mutambo is the camp manager of the Kakuma camps and the Kalobeyei settlement.
What are the benefits and challenges of having refugees in your community?: “There are many more benefits than challenges. Refugees contribute to the GDP to Turkana County and if they left we would not be able to bridge that gap. To us, they are a boom, not a burden. They employee the host community through transportation, barber shops, farming, and livestock. It is challenging because there are conflicts over water and fire. But many more benefits than challenges.”
Kakuma is one of the world’s oldest and largest refugee camps. More than 185,000 refugees live in Kakuma and neighboring Kalobeyei Settlement, with the majority from South Sudan. IsraAID runs medical, livelihood, protection and education programs with children and adults in Kakuma and Kalobeyei. Greece — Refugees at Sindos Community Center, near Thessaloniki.
What is your dream? Sindos Community Center is operated by IsraAID in partnership with Be a Robin and Three Peas. The center serves several hundred refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and more, living in surrounding shelters. IsraAID has operated in Greece since 2015, working with refugees in Lesbos and Northern Greece. Colombia — Refugees, Migrants & Asylum Seekers from Venezuela & Colombian Host Community in Soledad, Colombia Mercedes, Venezuelan
Please tell us an adjective that defines you: Luchadora (Fighter)
What is your dream?: To have my older child here with me in Colombia and not in Venezuela on her own. Her name is Maria.
What do you want the world to know about Venezuelans?: We are here due to the economic crisis, even while we worked in Venezuela we did not have enough money to feed our children. Here with 10.000 COP (about 3 USD) we can have lunch, in Venezuela we can barely buy some corn flour.
What has helped you get through all that you have experienced?: My children. They are 3, 4, 12 & 19 years old.
Please tell us an adjective that defines you: Luchadora (Fighter)
What is your dream?: To see my dad once more.
What do you want the world to know about Venezuelans?: Venezuelans came here to fight for our kids, we did not come here to be treated as less than the others.
What has helped you get through all you have experienced?: My children. Danelys, Venezuelan
Please tell us an adjective that defines you: Fuerte (Strong)
What is your dream?: That my little girl can attend school, and to bring my dad from Venezuela with me.
What do you want the world to know about Venezuelans?: We are much more than “venecos”. We are as human as anyone else. We are not stealing jobs. We work. Period. (Editor’s note: veneco is a pejorative used in Colombia to refer to Venezuelans)
What has helped you get through all that you have experienced?: God always has had my back to move forward when times get hard.
Please tell us an adjective that defines you: Fuerte y Luchadora (Strong and a Fighter)
What is your dream?: To have all my family reunited in one place.
What do you want the world to know about Venezuelans?: Our only purpose in life is to provide a better future for our children, so they accomplish everything they need for their wellbeing.
What has helped you get through all that you have experienced?: God and my children. Having them by my side gives me strength to cope.
Amparo, Colombian & a community leader with Cedesocial, IsraAID’s local partner. Amparo was an IDP during Colombia’s civil conflict.
Please tell us an adjective that defines you: Hopeful
What is your dream?: As a mother, that all my children become professionals. As a Community Leader, to keep having the strength to empower, listen to and accompany women. Being able of serving them and being useful.
What do you want the world to know about Venezuelans?: Not everyone is the same kind of person. Each human being has a story behind them, and we should not victimize or point our fingers at him/her. I think the Venezuelans that came here did so to overcome challenges, therefore we as Colombians need to unite and support them so their suffering is temporary.
What has helped you get through all that you have experienced?: When I see someone is happy, it fulfills me. When I see they are grateful after participating in our activities, that is what moves me to keep going. My biggest support is another Community Leader from Villa Soledad, Amparo Ramirez. She is like my sister. She sees things that I do not see, and she warns me about bad decisions I may be making.
Please tell us an adjective that defines you: Playful
What is your dream?: I want to become a fireman and an architect.
What do you want the world to know about Venezuelans?: I want Colombian kids to know they can always play with me, and also Venezuelans. It is good when we play together.
What has helped you get through all that you have experienced?: Playing with my toys, specially with my Robin doll, he is my favorite superhero!
IsraAID launched its emergency response program in Colombia in May 2019. As the humanitarian crisis at home deepens, more than 4 million Venezuelans have now left their country as refugees, migrants & asylum seekers, including more than 1 million since November 2018 alone. 1.3 million are in neighboring Colombia. Germany — Refugees and IsraAID team members on the Navigators Leadership Program, Berlin Participants at IsraAID’s Navigators Leadership Program painted their dreams on bags so they are always by their side and never forgotten.
IsraAID Germany was founded in 2015, when one million asylum seekers and refugees reached the country, most fleeing the brutality of the Syrian civil war and the threat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. IsraAID Germany’s team is a multicultural mosaic of Arabic-, Hebrew-, German- and English-speaking psychologists, social workers, art therapists and educators. They utilize their international experience and intercultural approach to promote the sustainable well-being and integration of refugees in Germany. In 2018, IsraAID Germany won the Chancellor’s Integration Award. South Sudan
What’s your experience of being a refugee/IDP? IDP life is not easy. 10 families live in the same hall where each family has more than 10 children or family heads.
What’s one thing you want the world to know? The world should know we need peace so that we go back home.
How do you envision the future? A country where people move freely and can do business. Suzy. 33.
What’s one thing you want the world to know? The world should know that refugees do suffer in the camps and do not want to stay in the camps actually.
How do you envision the future? Peace all over the world, and good life for my family and friends and for myself.
What’s your experience of being a refugee/ IDP? I am a refugee, staying in the IDP camp. There are a lot of challenges like no proper food, poor shelter, lack of basic needs.
What’s one thing you want the world to know? Let the world know that refugees here suffer in camps because of no peace and they should support efforts to bring peace and support the refugees.
How do you envision the future? I envision a world where education can be available to all, and to help refugees support themselves. I envision a country where there is peace and people live in harmony.
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What’s your experience of being a refugee/IDP? To be an IDP is not easy. One does not know what will happen as there is insecurity, and people from different places with different characters and behavior or bad manners. One good experience I had, I managed to run a business and was able to cater for my children and their schooling. I had good relations with people and came to know different cultures through the awareness and training of leadership.
What’s one thing you want the world to know? That we need peace and they should strongly struggle that there is peace in South Sudan, so that each one can go back to his/her area and start life with the skills they have [gained] in the camp to practise.
How do you envision the future? I envision peace, because if there is peace, children will have a good education, there will be security in the country and can move from country to country/all over the world. The most important thing is I want my children to have a better future and live a good life and be change-makers in the community.
IsraAID has worked in South Sudan since the country gained independence in 2011, focusing on capacity building for community service providers, with a focus on post-trauma support, psychosocial support, and Sexual & Gender-Based Violence. Ongoing civil conflict, which began in 2013, and deteriorating economic conditions, have led millions of South Sudanese people into displacement, both internally and as refugees across the region.