They thought the world had forgotten them — and in some respects, the world had.
Kiziba Refugee Camp is home to nearly 20,000 Congolese Refugees.After fleeing their homes in DR Congo due to a violent civil war in 1997, nearly 20,000 people sought safety in Kiziba Refugee Camp. The camp, settled high atop a hillside in Western Rwanda, is accessed only by hours of walking up rough, steep roads. They prayed life in the camp would only be momentary — a few years, at most. Yet, the people of Kiziba have been waiting for 20 years now — waiting for their home country to become safe, for ethical leaders to rise, for someone to notice them.
Born just a year before her family fled from Congo to Rwanda, Daniella’s memories growing up in Kiziba Camp are marked by images of poverty: disease, hunger, unplanned teen pregnancies. At the same time, she saw her mother, a nurse at the camp dispensary, constantly serving others. Watching the impact her mother could have in a seemingly hopeless place, Daniella dreamed of growing up to be a nurse, just like her.
Daniella (right) with her mother, brother, father and sister.When Daniella was accepted to be a University Leadership Scholar at These Numbers Have Faces in 2015, she enrolled in a nursing program. Traveling back home to the camp on school breaks and holidays, Daniella was constantly reminded of how her studies would be put to good use, someday. That day, however, was to come sooner than she thought.
Part of our University Leadership Program is that all scholars must plan and execute a 50-hour Community Impact Project. Daniella decided to draw on her skills and knowledge from nursing classes for a project she hoped would improve the nutritional status of women and children in Kiziba Camp.
Donning her white lab coat, Daniella stepped into the center of a crowd that had gathered outside the Kiziba Camp health center. 130 women came to hear her speak about proper nutrition for their children — about the causes of malnutrition, prevention and treatment.
At her second session, Daniella worked one-on-one with pregnant women and their husbands. Together they discussed the importance of good nutrition practices, and the consequences of poor nutrition on an infant and the mother. During the final session, mothers brought their children for fortified porridge and milk.
For two weeks Daniella led sessions like this, and conducted screenings to help with monitoring pregnant women. She also made home visits to further discuss challenges families faced and make sure children were receiving the fortified porridge she had prescribed.
Since her clinics, mothers have returned to Daniella to share with her the improvements in their children’s health.
“I found that in my community there is still hope to develop,” Daniella said. “I realized there are people who can understand and practice what they have learned.”
Women in Kiziba Camp sort nutritious food to take home to their families.Reflecting on her Community Impact Project, Daniella said leading her own nutrition program and screenings taught her how to be a better communicator — the importance of listening, processing situations, and searching for sustainable solutions. Implementing practical skills from class in her own community reminded Daniella that her choice to work hard, persevere and problem solve, is enabling her to become a much needed leader in the camp, and beyond.
As one of Daniella’s neighbors said, “To build knowledge is to fight for peace.” As Daniella continues to learn and use her knowledge, she’s showing her community they are not forgotten, in her eyes — their lives and their health are indeed worth fighting for.