Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is causing thousands of people to flee to safety across the border into the country of Uganda. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) has been engaged in helping the refugees as they make new lives for themselves.
The government of Uganda has welcomed these incoming refugees. Not only have they provided a haven for people fleeing for their lives, they have generously given each family a small plot of land where they can grow vegetables. On these small allotments some are able to grow enough food to not only feed themselves, but also have enough to sell for other necessities. Some are even able to put together enough cash to send their children to boarding schools.
One school in the region is known for high academic standards and good morals. Built in 2003 for an earlier influx of refugees, the school is known far and wide as the “ADRA school.” Refugees who live close enough to the school are able to send their children as day students. About 150 students come from homes that are too far away for them to walk back and forth each day. These have become boarding students and live at the school.
Some of the boarders are as young as five years old. Their “dormitories” are actually the classrooms. The “dorm” for the younger students is bare of any beds and the students simply roll out mats on the floor at the end of the day. With minimum space, as many as three children share one mat. The principal of the school said, “We are definitely overcapacity, but how can we turn students away?”
One student, a 15-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) named Aganze, shares her story:
I was born and grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We had a small farm and life was good for us. I never dreamed that I would one day be a refugee, but it happened and here I am now living, as a refugee, far from my home.
We don’t know where they came from, but soldiers suddenly appeared in our village. They would kill some and torture others. They came several times. Each time they would come to our home asking for my father by name. He had done some work for foreigners and they were angry with him and wanted to kill him. Thanks be to God, each time they came, my father was able to escape. They would beat us trying to get us to tell them where he had gone. We didn’t know where he was hiding. This only made them more angry.
After one of these attacks, my father did not return. We were afraid that the soldiers had finally found him and had killed him. After two years of not hearing from him we began to lose hope that he was alive. My mother did her best to continue to care for my three siblings and me. Each day we lived in fear that the soldiers would return and hurt us again or even kill us.
One day a woman came to our village with news that our father was alive and that he was living in Uganda. He had sent this woman to find us and give us the message to come and join him. We were overjoyed with this good news! We packed up a few things, said goodbye to our little home and made the journey with the woman back to the refugee camp where she said our father was. I fell asleep in the car. When I woke up the next morning I was in my fathers arms! I was so happy to be reunited with my father.
The next day we registered as refugees, and we lived in the Nyakabande Refugee Transit Center for one whole year. We then joined a group of people being relocated to a refugee settlement in Rwamwanga. Our group filled 10 buses as we made our way to our new home. The United Nations welcomed us warmly and provided us with basic needs.
I was fortunate enough to be accepted at the "ADRA school." I like it here because it is a Christian school that believes in and worships God. Our school motto is, “Fear God and be wise!” I started here in Primary 3, but I have quickly advanced and I am now in Primary 7. The teachers are very helpful and kind here. I have learned English and am doing well in math and the sciences.
Some of us older girls have a challenge that makes it difficult to be in school on certain days of the month. ADRA has helped us out with this problem by providing the older girls with hygiene packages that contain sanitary pads.
Our school has many challenges. Our school family keeps growing every week. We need more classrooms! Some of the children have to meet under a tree. We don't have dormitories to sleep in. I share a home near the school with 15 other girls. Many of the younger students are just sleeping on the floor of one of the classrooms at night. During the dry season water becomes scarce and we have to walk several kilometers to get water.
But I thank God for this school and all of the ADRA supporters who make it possible.
— This article originally appeared on the ADRA Canada website on May 1, 2019.