A member of a Congolese women group entertains the audience during the International Women's Day celebrations in Nairobi. The day is set aside to celebrate the achievements of women. (Charles Njanga/JRS)
Nairobi, 20 May 2013 – Her radiant smile hides the tribulations that she has gone through in life. Dressed in a colourful African print dress and matching headgear, she cuts the image of a successful woman. She has a jolly nature and an infectious smile. Meet Marie* a Congolese refugee living in Nairobi, Kenya. This is her inspirational story.

I have been in Kenya for eleven years now, having fled from Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through Tanzania. My husband had arrived in Kenya in 1998 while I came in 2002 with 2 children. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) took me to the Red Cross who found a hostel for me. I was reunited with my husband after one year in 2003 while in 2004 my niece joined me. While in Kenya, I gave birth to 2 children, both girls. I therefore take care of 5 children.

In 2011, I was involved in an accident at Westlands, Nairobi but escaped with no visible injuries at the time. However that night I started experiencing some pain in my leg and went to GTZ who referred me to Kenyatta National Hospital. I was unable to meet the cost of treatment at Kenyatta and had to turn to well wishers for support. From then on, I could hardly walk due to a paralysis in my leg.

A miraculous journey. After further tests at Kenyatta, I was told to go for specialized treatment. At first I was told to go to the refugee camp for the treatment but later referred to India. At one time, my file got lost at Kenyatta. I was eventually hospitalized at Kenyatta where I was visited by JRS staff. JRS also intervened and provided a vehicle to take me home.

After being discharged, while at home, my condition worsened and I had to be rushed to Mbagathi Hospital at midnight. My husband was angry at the lack of attention I was receiving. Some friends recommended that I seek treatment at Kijabe Mission Hospital, which is around 60 kilometers from Nairobi. Members of my community raised funds to take me to Kijabe Hospital. At Kijabe, the doctors recommended that I undergo a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. The doctors also prescribed 3 injections, each costing 8,800/- shillings (US$ 104). I was treated at Kijabe with funds from well-wishers. At one time, a visit to Kijabe cost me 48,000/- shillings (US$ 572).

My last treatment cost 1,300/- shillings (US$ 15) that was paid for by JRS. I started getting better in February 2013. Miraculously I just got up and started feeling better. I was however advised not to undertake any strenuous activity for a period of at least six months. The doctors treating me did not believe it when they saw me. They had to summon other doctors to verify my identity. I am now able to walk normally without any problems.

After my miraculous healing, 2 people in the plot that I used to live in got saved. I had initially lost hope but just prayed to get better. Sadly, 2 people I was in hospital with died. I am now heavily in debt due to my big hospital bill. Even now some people who saw me when I was unwell cannot believe it.

After I got well, my tribulations did not end there. We were attacked by thugs in our house in Kangemi, Nairobi in February and all our household goods stolen. We had to move to another house after the attack. I wondered why the devil wanted to continuously torment me like that. I have also been seeking documentation for one of my children for 9 years now since 2004. This means that my child cannot sit for form 4 examinations.

Support from JRS. JRS has provided me with food and scholarships for my children in school. They have also provided scholastic materials for my children. JRS is like my mother and father. I would have died without the assistance received from JRS. I am very grateful to JRS for all the assistance they gave me. JRS has accompanied me through my journey, often assisting me with transport to and from the hospital, being physically present with me at the hospital and being attentive to my needs.

At one time I contemplated committing suicide but received counseling from JRS that assisted me to cope with life. I initially supported myself by washing clothes and looking after children before the accident. My cleanliness gives the impression that I am well off but that is not the case. I cannot go back to DR Congo for fear of persecution. Before I fled, I had been attacked by Banyamulenge militia in DRC.

I am now a walking miracle. If I manage to be resettled overseas, JRS will surely get my financial support for all the assistance they have given me. I have no words to express what JRS has done for me.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity

By Charles Njanga, JRS Eastern Africa Regional Communications Officer

As of March 2013, Kenya was host to some 567,228 registered refugees and an estimated 46,000 asylum seekers.  In Nairobi, JRS provides a range of services to new arrivals, asylum seekers and refugees in the most vulnerable circumstances. These services include emergency food and medical assistance, assistance with rent payment, provision of basic non-food items, support for income generation activities, pastoral and psychosocial accompaniment, and educational scholarships for the children of vulnerable refugees.

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