20 June 2017 – Kigali – On this day, the world marked World Refugee Day, joining to recognize the lives of refugees from all around the world. In Kigali, Shared_Studios, an American art collective, partnered with the Rwandan Social Enterprise Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga to host a Portal™ event at the Impact Hub Kigali. . Portals are spaces equipped with immersive audiovisual technology which brings people from connecting locations face-to-face. These spaces facilitate cross-cultural communication and understanding.
In this event, the Kigali portal connected Congolese refugees living in Rwanda with students and parliamentarians at the European Union Parliament in Brussels. On behalf of the One UN in Rwanda, UNICEF, IOM and UNHCR joined the Portal event to express solidarity with refugees
The refugees in attendance represented more than 3,700 households from Kiziba Refugee Camp, which is located in the Western Province of Rwanda in Karongi District. Kiziba is home to Congolese refugees who fled violence and instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Some of the refugees in Kiziba have lived there for more than 20 years.
The World Refugee Day Portal was a great opportunity for the Kiziba representatives to exchange ideas on how the refugee problem can be handled. Both refugees and the students had time to ask and answer questions, allowing each group to get an understanding of the situation in their respective areas of the world.
Students who participated in the event learnt about the day-to-day lives of the Kiziba refugees. Students in Brussels asked questions and learnt that many of the refugees shared their dreams: to become doctors, pastors, teachers, artists and entrepreneurs.
Colette Neza, one of the Congolese refugees, was not shy about sharing her experiences with the Belgian students.
“The insecurity in Congo forced to me flee my country to the refugee camp,” she said. “I lost all my relatives, and many other friends of mine when I fled DRC. I have been in Kiziba Camp for 20 years now.”
The reality of the refugee situation startled some of the students, but it provided an important platform for discussion regarding what the young generation can do to help refugees around the world. The Congolese urged the young students to become advocates.
“We do not ask you to give us money,” said Jean Theophile, one of the Kiziba residents. “All we ask of you is to tell your parents and friends who work in the European Union to increase their support for refugees.” As part of the One UN in Rwanda, UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM and other sister agencies have supported and continued to support a range of interventions for the Congolese and Burundian refugee population in Rwanda.
Story by Henry Kabiyona