Voices From a Refugee Camp

Crowds of children in threadbare clothing. Long lines of mothers waiting for food rations. An aerial shot of an endless expanse of makeshift shelters.

The images that often portray life in a refugee camp can be impersonal, overwhelming and void of hope. Yet while it’s true that refugees have endured hardships few of us can comprehend, and that they depend on the resources and generosity of the compassionate, the masses we see are actually comprised of individuals. And every one of them has a story.

We believe that every person matters. And that their voices and their stories should be heard. God knows each person by name and loves them. So today we’d like to introduce you to 4 of these individuals and invite you to read the words they shared about their lives in a refugee camp.

A Voice of Hope

First-time mom Imacule has spent her entire life — 24 years — in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp. It had just opened when she was born, to house a rapid influx of people fleeing violence in the Congo, and resources were scarce. Imacule had a difficult childhood, and didn’t have the opportunity to attend school. She dreams of a better life for her newborn twin girls.

She believes it was God’s plan to bless her with twins, and she is enjoying the blessing. Relying on the expert care available at the Medical Teams-supported clinic, Imacule delivered her healthy babies with no complications only 4 days early. She is learning about the health benefits of skin-to-skin contact and exclusive breastfeeding. With a big smile, Imacule told us her dream for her children.

“I pray to God that they will go to school and have a better life.”

A Voice of Perseverance

Dr. Stephen has earned a chance to rest. The 70-year-old physician retired from government hospital work in 1997. But instead of settling in his home town or taking up a hobby, he’s spent the last 3 years heading up the children’s ward in a Tanzanian refugee camp.

His expert hands gently check the vitals of a 3-year-old boy suffering from malaria. The child had been frightened and fighting the nurses, but Dr. Stephen’s demeanor calms him. Immediately after listening to his lungs, the experienced doctor knows the child has developed pneumonia.

“Cases like this fill up the wards,” he explains. “They can die if they are not managed well. We try our best.”

Dr. Stephen enjoys working in the refugee clinic because there is so much to do. His knowledge and perseverance have a big impact on the staff who work around the clock caring for sick children. They don’t hesitate to volunteer for extra shifts or sit with mothers in their grief, knowing that the work they do is meaningful and important.

A Voice of Relief

Donatha was stoic, yet attentive, checking on her son and wrapping him tenderly in a thin cloth as she waited their turn to see the doctor. They’d been to the clinic many times — young Methothe was frequently ill, and malaria kept returning to his body. This time she told the doctor something that she hadn’t before. Her son had difficulty swallowing the medicine he was given, and he always vomited it back up.

Though it was a difficult decision, requiring her to leave her other 4 children in the care of their eldest, adult sibling, Donatha agreed to admit Methothe to the children’s ward where he could receive life-saving antimalarial medicine and antibiotics.

The improvement was immediate. The nursing staff inserted an IV so that Methothe was assured to receive the medicines he needed. By morning the boy was walking around and eating on his own, waiting to be discharged.

Donatha’s relief was evident on her face as she shared, ” He feels better and he wants to go home. I am feeling very good.”

A Voice of Purpose

Kiza didn’t see the violence himself, but he heard the stories. He refused to leave his pregnant wife alone for any length of time, afraid she’d be vulnerable to attack. So he fled his home in the Congo.

“My country still isn’t stable. People are killed no matter where, no matter how.”

Kiza and his wife have lived in the refugee camp since 1996, and they now have 7 children. In 2004, Kiza began serving as a Health Information Team volunteer because he wanted to help protect lives in his community.

Each day Kiza visits 20 families, sharing helpful information about malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and other health concerns. He encourages mothers to give birth at the clinic, and makes sure they are taking their children for regular check-ups.

Community volunteers like Kiza play a vital role in refugee camps — they connect the vulnerable with life-saving medical care.

As Kiza explained, “Our future is upon these little kids. We have a responsibility to protect them.”

The mothers that Kiza visits with are thankful for the education he shares and they’re putting his advice into practice. They’ve started sleeping under mosquito nets to protect their children from malaria. They teach their families about hand washing and the importance of clean water. They watch out for fevers and don’t wait to visit the clinic for medicines.

Refugee camps are full of countless voices, and each one has something important to say. Thank you for caring about these 4 individuals and learning about their lives.


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