Kenya: The dawn is breaking
13 June 2013

The library at the Pedro Arrupe Centre in the JC-HEM compound that is ran by JRS at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. The library is used mainly by refugees who are taking courses through the JC-HEM programme. (Charles Njanga/JRS)
It had never crossed my mind that one day I would be a refugee in another country miles away from home, with no immediate family member.
Kakuma, 13 June, 2013 - The celebration of world refugee day is purposely meant to create awareness on the plight of refugees and other forcibly displaced populations' all over the world and compel stakeholders working for and with refugees to initiate sustainable and durable solutions to their myriad of challenges. The theme of 2013 world refugee day celebration is '1 family torn apart by war is too many'.

Scattered family, shattered dreams. The following story is a testimony of a young refugee ………………………";Life was normal in my country Congo, growing up in a happy family of five. It had never crossed my mind that one day I would be a refugee in another country miles away from home, with no immediate family member. I had read, watched and heard about stories of war in neighboring countries but little did I imagine that the same would befall my treasured family". Benard* was in class 2 in Northern Congo in 2005 when the unthinkable happened. One Sunday evening, he explains, the family was having their dinner when militias armed with machetes and guns stormed into their house and killed his father and two brothers. The militia went ahead and, "abducted my mother and my two sisters. I ran into our bedroom where I managed to hide under the bed", he explains while sobbing.

He continued to narrate to the writer his story, "I went out and found three dead bodies lying in a pool of blood. Confused, I cried my heart out, but unfortunately no help was forthcoming my way. Afraid for my dear life, I fled the country trekking several miles away before landing into Kenya. I sincerely do not understand how I made it to Kenya, the rest is history", he explains tears rolling down his cheek. "Imagine once a happy family torn apart by war; the most traumatizing aspect is that I do not know what happened to my mum and sisters. I keep on praying everyday that wherever they are, they are safe in case the militias did not kill them. I was robbed of my once treasured family members, friend and relatives. The gap they have left in me is too big to be filled by my new found family members and friend", he says smiling.

JRS is my friend….a true friend. Finding himself in Kenya, he was brought to Kakuma where he is currently staying as an unaccompanied minor. Benard was admitted in one of the camp primary schools with the help of JRS where he has shown a great interest in education. He has been on top of the class for two consecutive terms and is the teacher's favorite in class 5. "I want to forget about the past, I want to re-engineer myself as a new being but this has never been easy", he sadly admits.
Benard has benefited from JRS counselling program in the protection facility, where he has managed to cope up with his emotional situation."I must admit that I am at peace with myself and my neigbours", he poses. Benard has been a client in the JRS centre for several months where he has managed to prove to all and sundry that war can only kill the body but not the soul. This he has managed to express through excellent academic performance, his ambition to succeed in life despite the many challenges in the camp.

Dawn is breaking…..at last….Benard like many others in his situation believed that with the death of his father and not knowing the whereabouts of his mother, the world would come to a standstill. Luckily for him, he has managed to pick the pieces and has decided to tread a different path….a path of hope. Benard who all along has had the desire to complete his studies and pursue Journalism course believes that there is still more for him in the store. "With Journalism, I want to bring to the fore a story of Africa, a story of war, the debilitating effect of war in order to arouse more action from agencies responsible of bringing law and order to action", he concludes.

Ben, as he is popularly known among his peers, is a perfect example of a resilient young man, who is focused to succeed despite his misfortunes. And as the world celebrates this years, World Refugee Day, Benard believes that the effect of war on young children is so disastrous that it has robbed millions of children peace of mind. Remember one family torn apart by war is too many.

*Names have been changed to protect identity

By Jeremiah Otieno, JRS Kakuma Assistant Safe Haven Program Coordinator

JRS began work in Kakuma refugee camp in 1994 to respond to the thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war in Sudan. Located in north-western Kenya near the Sudanese border the camp opened in 1992 and currently hosts over 100,000 refugees. JRS provides refugees with the opportunity to build new skills for life outside the camp, through a psychosocial counselling and vocational training programme, as well as support for primary, secondary and higher education.