Have you heard of a refugee describing its future? You probably didn’t,  right? This is most of the difficult time for them to describe what tomorrow holds for them. Based on the UNHCR, refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict, or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country. When they are being displaced by the above-mentioned circumstances, they mostly go without their basic domestic materials with no hope for survival. Refugees’ hope of life takes a very rough way, and sometimes it fails.

I am Justin Rugamba. I was born and raised in a refugee camp,  Kiziba,  which is located in the Western province of Rwanda. Kiziba Refugee Camp is located in the Karongi district. In my childhood, I have heard my parents talking positively about my motherland. They mostly talked about its fertility, and how green it is. My parents had enough land and cattle which helped them to survive their whole life. Today, we live together in a refugee camp with no hope to go back to their land.

Being born and raised in a refugee camp has given me a chance to learn more about how to survive in a difficult situation. In my childhood,  I could even spend a whole day without eating. This difficult experience gave me courage and inspiration to focus on my studies as the only way to bring back hope for myself and my family. After a very complicated academic journey, I have completed my High School in a linguistic school which is located in the Gatsibo District, the Eastern province of Rwanda. Here, I have not yet created hope of life due to the fear of unemployment issues within my community. I had a dream of being a changemaker in my community, and I had to reach my dreams through accessing higher education. Remember, I said higher education without even having enough daily food.

After completing high school, I used to tell my friends and family that I will be a great person with a university degree. They sometimes laughed at my dreams and goals. They said, “ Do you even think of where to find tomorrow’s meal?” This question surely threatened my dreams, but I had to keep on dreaming. 

In 2018, I realized that my dreams are coming true when I joined the Kepler Program. Kepler is a non-governmental organization working in Rwanda since 2013, in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University. SNHU provides students in East Africa with access to accredited American degrees through their innovative competency-based online degrees. This Kepler program started its operation in the Kiziba refugee camp in 2015, and I joined it in 2018. After joining Kepler, my hope for tomorrow went high. This is because I had a plan to do my best and learn so that I can challenge my hopeless feelings. At Kepler, I learned technology, communication, professionalism, and many others skills that characterize professionals.

Kepler in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University has rebuilt my hope. I obtained my Associate of Art in General Studies with a Specialization in Business through the Kepler Program. This degree allows an individual to work in small businesses or starting their own with prior knowledge in business. After earning this degree, I also pursued my Bachelor of Art in Communication with a  Concentration in Business from Southern New Hampshire University. For sure, my completion of BA has awakened my courage to keep chasing my dreams. 

The skills learned from my AA and BA milestones have executed my potential to work and produce quality works. I have applied all my learned skills through engaging in professional internships either locally or internationally. These internships include Participatory Action Research with the City University of New York, Higher Education and Real-world training with Global Education Movement (GEM), Writing and Communication internship with Itara Media, Interview an Innovator with Global Innovator Academy with a partnership with Global Education Movement. Additionally, I am currently working as an Assistant in the Charge of Career Services at Kepler.

My struggles,  education, and work experience have paved the way for my success. It took much of my time, patience, and courage to start earning income.  I still hope to reach further through keeping hope and courage forward. I am very much passionate about Communication and Social media management, and I hope for the best in my field of interest.

Fellow refugees, we are able. We can challenge our challenges. We can do it. All this will come from our growth mindset and the proper use of available resources around us. Those resources include Kepler which has given us access to higher education, UNHCR which is still making advocates for us, and even educated people around us. There is hope for the future, and please never lose hope. What needs to be done is just to carry on dreaming and fighting for what you believe to become in your future.

View Justin Rugamba’s LinkedIn profile

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