Having lived in a refugee camp in Nakivale north-eastern Uganda since he was 27 years old, Pierre, now 40, has struggled with his identity for most of his life. Pierre, a community member of God’s Village, said this, and based on true story of his life, to illustrate the challenges of growing up as a refugee and His life at God’s Village:
"I am embarrassed when I'm forced to introduce myself as 'a Congolese refugee living in Uganda'. I am no longer in DRC Congo and yet I am not a Ugandan citizen; so where do I belong? Am I going to be a refugee forever? I feel I am lost in between. But I believe in who I am.
"I was only 27 years old when I first arrived in Nakivale from Congo in late 1996. My family did not flee when the war erupted in 2003. We didn't leave until our father died. The beautiful coastal town of Boma in which I was born turned into a battlefield. And there was no option but to escape. My siblings and I were separated from our mother in our struggle to escape the heartbreaking genocide.
"The journey was full of horror, exacerbated by ugly images that we came across, like families who were killed and others were left along the road because they were too exhausted to go on. I still have bad memories about it.
"Our much anticipated destination was Nakivale, a refugee camp in western Uganda. Unfortunately, after travelling the whole way with, my siblings, my mother and I were not reunited. It is one of my worst moments in my life. I cannot tell whether they are still alive or no.
“I registered with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and they gave me an attestation card when I finally arrived - a milestone for all refugees because the attestation card it provided entitled us to food, shelter, water and healthcare.
“I truly honor the support they offered to all the refugees, specifically the Congolese community, which makes up the second largest refugee population in Uganda. There is nothing I can compare to Uganda's generosity for hosting us for more than two decades.
‘’Due to a large number of refugees in the camp, there was also a massive spread of diseases like STDs and almost 50% of the refugees were affected with HIV/AIDS, unemployment, and discrimination was also there since the camp was full of different races.
‘This forced me as a young man to leave the camp and look for some other place to live in though it was not allowed to live the camp without the permission of the Uganda Refuge Agency. A place where I will be comfortable, where I will not be forced to do hard tasks and in the end am not paid.
‘’When it came to those that were not educated, it was worse. Because even those who were educated were paid very poor wages regardless of their qualifications or work experience.
‘From there I shifted to Bunjjako Island where I meet a family of God’s Village under Vangrace Compassion Ministries. I introduced myself to them and they welcomed me with a big hug and smile. I was given a portion of land in which I live in up to today. So I from their my life was settled and thanks to Vangrace Compassion Ministries that today I have a family of 4 children whom now I consider as my only family members.’
As Vangrace Compassion Ministries, we take the burden of drawing closer these people regardless of their race, nationality and back ground and we try our best to make them part of God’s Village Family. As our mission states that ‘’ Transforming Lives of Orphans, Vulnerable Children (OVCs), Vulnerable Groups and impact Communities Through VCM initiatives, churches and Missions programs to equipping them with full potential for Productivity and ministering to the Uganda Africa”.
We usually hold meetings with these refugees and mostly we discuss problems that they face, the way forward and how they can get helped. Most of them are being affected with HIV/AIDS and they find problems in accessing medication since they live on the shore, others are illiterate so they cannot get good jobs apart from fishing and others are elderly people who are totally vulnerable hence cannot help themselves.
Through the research that we have made in our community outreach program of Vangrace Compassion Ministries, there is a need for adult education and this will help those that are illiterate most especially the school dropouts and the adults who are illiterate.
There is also a need for establishing a nearby community clinic so that these people can easily get access to the medication that they need mostly those that are affected with HIV/AIDS.
‘There are lots of people who still need help, especially those in the refugee camps. I always tell people it is not over yet. The fact some of us were fortunate to come here is not the end; it is only the beginning. If some of the refugees in the camps were to tell their stories to you, you'd say, "You know, Pierre's story is nothing. There are worse hardships."
Pierre says 'When I open my book of life and I look through it, I see all kinds of experiences. Good has come from all parts, even the unlucky ones. Everything in my life has turned out for the better through Vangrace Compassion Ministries-God’s Village; that's how I see it. Had all those things not happened in my life, I would not be where I am today. If I had not lived through the war in Congo, I would not have come to Uganda. If my mom had not left me, I would not have ended up here in Uganda. Everything that happened has turned out to be fortunate for me.
My dad taught me; difficult times don't last forever. He said never worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. There is always a better day.