Kenya: Carrying the burden alone
16 July 2009

Some of the bead crafts Christine produces and sells in order to help her family survive in Nairobi. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
We only had one meal a day which often caused fighting among the children because they were hungry.
Nairobi, 16 July 2009 – In 1994, when I was 23 years old, I had to flee from Rwanda because of the genocide. Together with my husband and two children we fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but since we did not feel safe in the refugee camps we moved to Kenya. 

When we arrived in Nairobi in 1996 our application for asylum was rejected by UNHCR because they wanted us to go back to Congo as it was our first country of asylum. 

But we decided to stay in Nairobi and for the following four years I tried to make some money. It was not sufficient to sustain the family so in 2000 I returned to Rwanda leaving my husband and two children behind. 

Arrested in Rwanda

Back in Rwanda I soon got into trouble because people started claiming the land my father had given to me upon my return. It finally became a court case and although my father won the case the authorities did not accept the decision by the court and my brother, my sister, my father and I were arrested. 

After we were released, my father died and after he had been buried our mother told us that it would be safer for us to leave the country. Someone helped my brother and me to cross the border to Uganda and in May 2008 I was back in Nairobi.  

My husband was not happy about the growing family which was difficult to sustain and entrusted all responsibility on me. So I started making bags and bead crafts and sold them in town. 

Bearing all responsibility for the family

But the money I made was not sufficient to buy food and pay school fees. Some of the teachers allowed me to contribute whatever I could afford to let the children continue their education. 

We only had one meal a day which often caused fighting among the children because they were hungry. For whole nights I could not sleep and over the day I had a severe headache because I kept thinking about how I could solve all the problems on my own.

I finally met a refugee woman who told me about a parish where JRS was supporting refugees. I went there and explained my situation to the social worker. He referred me to another agency for treatment and psychosocial counselling and from then on we regularly received food assistance from JRS. 

This was a great relief which I had not expected and I do not know what I would have done without. The children could have lunch again and stopped fighting for food. A little later I was granted the opportunity to sell my crafts at the JRS Mikono Shop which helps me to pay our house rent. 

There is no perspective of me returning to Rwanda. But it is my great desire to make sure that my children are educated here and I hope that with the support from JRS and the work of my own hands I can make this happen.