Yes, there are many documentaries and media networks trying to raise awareness. But once you see them, the awareness goes away as normal daily life begins. This is normal for many of us and certainly not wrong, as we all have our own lives and challenges.
But what if there was a way, to raise social consciousness, to inspire the world to sit up and take notice of global suffering. To realise that yes, we are one world and all of humanity matters.
I hope I have found that way… By sharing stories from CEN: Community Empowerment Network, refugee camp in South Africa, focusing on courageous stories of people who despite suffering great trauma themselves, have given back to their community.
This is Simbizi Fredy Jone Kaganaga story… as told by him.
He who has health and hope has everything – Arab proverb
Simbizi was born in DRC in 1986, at Inela Mulungu Kabale; my family were from Batwa (pigmy ethnic group). One of 7 children, the family lived in a hut that was provided by man who owned a farm and employed all members of the family to work as labourers in exchange for the hut. No other type of compensation was given. Simbizi was aged 5 when he starting working on the farm.
I soon grew bored from moving place to place and seeking strenuous casual jobs on plantations of masters. There was no hospital to go to for treatment, no school to go to, and no government support. And if there were, you could not have access for treatment or study. We were discriminated and teased with terms such as Batwa, shorty, vampires…
In 1996, when I was 10 year old, our family was the target of recruitment for local rebel army, Mai-Mai. Our hands and those of our father were tied up, my mother tried to defend my sisters and herself. How sad to tell I saw a man stabbing my dear mom, straight in her belly and she died. The rest of us were deported many miles away, to serve the rebels.
In 1997, I cannot forget how I lost my dear big sister, Alice who was only 14 years old. She died on the way from the rebel group’s detention to Bukavu, two rebel soldiers told her that they would help the family escape if she had sex with them. My sister let them rape her. She didn’t think about what they were doing to her, all she wanted was for our family to be free.
The soldiers kept their promise but only I and my sister could escape. On our way to Bukavu, after a 4 hour walk in the forest, my sister got so weak… I tried to carry her on my back. There was a hospital in the village ahead and I run as fast as I could with her on my back, but failed. She died before we could reach the village. I blamed myself and grew depressed.
A Christian family, on their way home from a Baptism, found me near the river with the body of my dear sister. They took me home and considered me like one of their family; I lived with them for four years. But separate from them when war broke out, again.
In 2001 I found a refugee camp. I had to hide and change my identity and ethnicity for my own safety, as in Batwa people were not liked, we were pigmies and not deserving of anything. This made me more depressed but I knew I could get education to read and write English and French because I changed my ethnic group.
In 2009, I attempted suicide… self-healing and acceptance was excruciating living in the refugee camp. I always had nightmares of my parents and dear sister.
In 2014, after more than an painful decade of feeling alone and worthless, I was converted to Christianity and completely gave my life to Lord Jesus, so I discovered the way to take control over my physical, social and psychological limitations that were holding me back. And, that was the start of one of the remarkable steps in my life.
For me it was one of an important asset that pushed me to a strongly awakening, motivation and commitment to help my fellow fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who, in turn also experienced harsh traumas caused by many social and psychological factors especially those who are from the poor minority grassroots who have a lot of problems even In a refugee camp. Teaching and counselling became my teacup.
In in 2015, most fortunate, I met a best friend of mine who was already coordinating a local organization to empower the most marginalized and disadvantaged people.
I was so inspired that I could not help joining the organization (CEN), in which I like to spend my time educating and talking with people who met different challenges in their lives and those who have psychological problems.
I am from one of the barefoot, illiterate grassroots, in DRC, the pygmies. And, often reluctant to associate the condition with my fellow refugee students who for the most part, tell me things like “teacher, if we didn’t come to school, we have nothing to eat and have to work hard.”
Education not only provides learning for students but they get food and don’t have to work as labourers in the plantations and farms.
Postscript – after reading Simbizi’s story, I feel very unsettled and sad, that I can’t raise enough social conscious to offer CEN assistance from Western countries.
All they seek is recognition and help with donations of second hand educational books (in English), people to help with counselling the children, assistance with growing vegetables and learning how to be more independent people so they can provide for themselves and their families.
They are proud people who don’t want handouts, they only want to learn skills to become independent.