Our lives matter… isn’t that what we all want? To know our lives matter to someone. 

img_3212I share these stories not to promote sympathy but to give these young brave courageous men and women a voice.

A voice to the world that doesn’t know they exist. And, in doing so they feel that someone cares, that their lives matter.

Isn’t that what we all want? To know that our lives matter.

They have lived and suffered through unimaginable violence. With no or little help to rebuild their lives.

So yes, their lives do matter. And, their stories need to be told.

We can all learn so much from their stories. About faith, hope, believing in yourself and never giving up.

This is Upendo’s story of courage, in his words, as told by him…


imageMy name is Upendo Ebula Upson, born in 1990, in DRC, south kivu. At Nundu. Married, and a father of one kid.

At the very younger age, 6 years old. I never forget, how God miraculously spared my life. While in the classroom.

Our school was built on a small hill, I heard for the first time, a big noise mountains where mother went to cultivate. People were fleeing away and many others were being murdered and tortured by soldiers in the mountains…

Meanwhile, a big noise was also coming from the streets, people were shouting, Mai, Mai, Mai.

Then all men and women from our village were asked to join the rebel group of Mai-Mai, which meant the magic ritual used by the village leaders to protect their bodies against the bullets, with the purpose of protecting their village from the enemies’ invasion.

Teacher who was in the office to take a piece of chalk, started to run away, fellow students screaming and so scared started to jump out of the classroom through the windows and run away.

Being so confused and perplexed, I was the last student to jump out through the window, so I could not realize where most of other students and brothers fled. As I took my own way to the river, I found 5 armed men, they caught me and laid me on the dirt.

All of a sudden they violently slapped and tramped me with their feet and I was scared to death when a gun was inserted in my mouth after the beating.

I really never forget how strange it was to me, the gun stuck in my mouth and the man was recharging and recharging to ignite it, while the others just surrounded me and looking straight into my pitiful eyes.  I heard them saying a sentence I never forget from their language : “Hita–Hita –Hita”, Hita means “call” in Swahili, so I was kind of confused, but when I associated the action I thought it means “kill–kill–kill” that was repeatedly spoken by the other men to urge the man who put the gun in my mouth to shoot.

In my heart I was only praying God, saying God if today is the end of my life on earth, receive my soul, please.

About some minutes, I heard voices of different people speaking Swahili, on the other side of the river, all the five soldiers were alerted and thought they were enemies, coming from the village to fight against them…while my eyes were closed, I suddenly saw the soldier pulling the gun out of my mouth and rushed to fight…they left me there.

My heart was sunk, broken and depressed, I tried hard to crawl in the bush, took the other way and fled to lake. Where I met a man who knew me and sailed me to Ubwari, and from Ubwari to Tanzania.

In the refugee camp, I was glad I met my father, but mother and sister were at field and until now we don’t have ideas where they are.

Helping in the house and doing hard jobs were part of my life. School for me was like a heavy bundle I was given to lift.

So I went to school, six years later when father took another wife…I was a little bit ashamed to go to school because of my age. And when I managed to go there, I was always a scandal to younger students in the classroom…

In 2008 got my diploma Learned English and French. Ministered in the church in 2013.

Keen on humanity development issues but fraught with unemployment, like most refugees in any camp, I decided to join CEN, in terms of helping and sharing some of the knowledge and experiences I went through to heal the broken hearts of most youths in our marginalized community.

The community in which, most youths are motivated to learn. But what is so sad to observe is the condition and the environment in which most services are provided, not worthy enough in the equipment and the wellbeing of the students.

A teacher is often insulted, seeing, some students sitting on their benches and others taking notes standing up. And the class is always full of the trainees just at the beginning of the first three months, but the number of the students sometimes, decrease before the end of the semester due to the fact that they are obliged to do some casual works (which are scarcely available in the refugee camp), to meet some of their basic needs.

Basic needs to help feed their family as their parents are often not able to, due to injuries or bad health.  How I want to help them, get a education so they can have a better life.  We need books and other education materials but I am determined to teach them no matter what.