Hear their voices

Part of the mandate of JRS is to help give a voice to refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. This section is dedicated to just that. Here you can read stories from refugees and others who had to flee their homes, witness their resilience and learn more about their experience in exile and the challenges they face once they start rebuilding their lives.

27 February 2017
I am REFUGEE, captive and prisoner to wars and destruction of the world.

Ethiopia: Eritrean refugee faces challenges with grace
05 July 2016
Addis Ababa, 5 July 2016 -- Selam Gebru is an Eritrean refugee who fled her homeland seeking safety eight years ago. A single mother of an autistic child, Selam holds two university degrees. She spoke with JRS about the challenges she faces as a refugee, and the long road to a hoped for resettlement to the United States. ?

World Refugee Day: ‘No situation is permanent’
20 June 2016
(Washington, D.C.) June 20, 2016) – Malith Chan entered the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya at age 14 after fleeing horrific violence in his native South Sudan. But with the help of Jesuit Refugee Service he was able to further his education. Malith, now 19, has a new life in Phoenix and aspires to become a civil engineer.

Kenya: 'they want me to be silent'
08 February 2016
Kakuma, 6 February 2016 – I am a 25-year-old Somali woman living in Kenya. I am a refugee activist working to counter sexual violence in my community. Here in Kakuma refugee camp, many young girls, especially Somali girls, under the age of 16 or so have undergone female genital mutilation. They really suffer from this. Infections are common, women can die in child birth and they suffer from a lot of pain. I've seen the consequences and felt this pain myself.

Yemen: 'women and girls started to disappear'
15 September 2015
Addis Ababa, 15 September 2015 – "I could not stay. The rebels controlled the roadblocks," says Safia, a young woman who fled Yemen for Ethiopia. "They think that women are objects, like a chair or a window."

Kenya and Italy: I was a stranger and you invited me in
09 July 2015
Rome, 9 July 2015 – When Pope Francis urged religious congregations to open their empty convents to welcome refugees in September 2013, Mark* never heard about it. Even if he had heard the news, chances are it wouldn’t have grabbed his attention for long. At the time, the 27-year-old was busy getting on with his life in Nairobi.

Kenya: finding purpose through healing others
17 December 2014
Nairobi, 17 December 2014 – Grace* has lived in Kakuma refugee camp for almost as long as the camp has been in existence. She has witnessed her fellow South Sudanese refugees come and go and come back again after each bout of conflict. While she has stayed safe from a damaging war, she has not been immune from a cycle of domestic abuse common for many women refugees.

Kenya: The realisation of many dreams
01 October 2013
Kakuma, 01 October 2013 – As the reality sinks in for the students of Jesuit Commons Higher Education at the Margins (JC-HEM) cohort one who graduated recently, it has been the culmination of a journey and fulfillment of many dreams. The colourful graduation ceremony that took place on Monday 23rd September 2013 at the JRS Arrupe Centre in Kakuma Refugee Camp saw 26 students graduate with a Diploma in Liberal Studies from Regis University in Denver Colorado (USA).

Kenya: A surprise gift from the Nigerian First Lady
30 September 2013
Nairobi, 30 September 2013 - In July and August 2013, urban refugees in Nairobi, Kenya got a reason to smile. This was after receiving a gift of food from the Nigerian First Lady Mrs. Patience Jonathan. This food was handed over to the UNHCR by the Kenyan first lady Margaret Kenyatta on behalf of her Nigerian counterpart. The food included rice, spaghetti, tomato paste, cooking oil, sugar and maize meal.

Italy: a message from Adam, Sudanese refugee from Darfur, to Pope Francis
11 September 2013
Rome, 11 September 2013 – Adam, a Sudanese refugee from Darfur, delivered this speech to Pope Francis at Chiesa del Gesu, on 10 September 2013 during the Holy Father's visit to Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy).

Kenya: The dawn is breaking
13 June 2013
Kakuma, 13 June, 2013 - The celebration of world refugee day is purposely meant to create awareness on the plight of refugees and other forcibly displaced populations’ all over the world and compel stakeholders working for and with refugees to initiate sustainable and durable solutions to their myriad of challenges. The theme of 2013 world refugee day celebration is ‘1 family torn apart by war is too many’.

South Sudan: My footsteps towards the future
20 May 2013
Yambio, 20 May 2013 - My name is Jane* studying at Bishop Abangite Secondary School of Science and Technology in Senior Four Class. My school is located within Yambio town in Western equatoria state. I am eager to finish my studies by the end of this year.

South Sudan: Our lives in school and future dreams
11 March 2013
Yambio, 11 March 2013 - Our names are Jane* and Mary*, studying in primary eight at St Mary’s primary school. We like this school because it is good and has teachers who teach us well in class. We wake up very early in the morning to come to school because it’s far from home. We do not like to come late to school otherwise we will be punished by our teachers. We carry wooden chairs from home because our classes do not have chairs. The wooden chairs are heavy and we get tired by the time we arrive in school.

Kenya: How ‘logic and critical thinking’ class changed the way I think
19 January 2013
Kakuma, 19 January 2013 - Communication plays an important part in our daily lives. This is especially because, as human beings, we are meant to be with others. Part of our life requires that we create relationships with others – in the family, at school, at work places, and in the community.

Ethiopia: It's better to live
31 October 2012
Dollo Ado, Ethiopia 31 October 2012 – Ali* is one of the young refugees at the Melkedida refugee camp, Dollo Ado District of Ethiopia. Back in his home village in Somalia, his family used to have many animals, a farm and a shop. Ali was the source of the family's wealth, as he worked hard. When his mother talks about Ali, she says, "he is a blessing to his family", as he understands all their needs and worries. He used to be adored by the community and small children wanted to be like him. The drought in 2010 killed all of his animals and left him with only one donkey, which he used to fetch water from the river.

South Sudan: From liability to asset
18 October 2012
Yei, South Sudan, 18 October 2012 - My name is Alex, a 25 year-old South Sudanese born in a village of Yei River County. According to my parents, I was born normal and started walking well like any other children.

Ethiopia: JRS could sense my grief
12 October 2012
Addis Ababa, 12 October 2012 – My name is Paul* and I was born in 1988 in Puntland, Somalia. I am an orphan as I lost both my parents before the age of 10, due to the violent conflict in Somalia.

Kenya: The impact of a JRS scholarship
18 September 2012
Nairobi, 19 September 2012 - My name is Tesfu*, formerly a civil servant and senior NGO worker from Asmara, Eritrea, now a refugee living in Nairobi, Kenya. In August 2010 my wife, my two sons and my little girl moved from Eritrea to join me in Kenya as I had secured a very good new job in Nairobi and the future looked bright. However what should have been a time for new beginnings quickly turned sour.

Kenya: Like a bird freed from its cage
16 September 2012
Kenya, 11 September 2012 - My name is Jamal* and I am a former refugee from Saudi Arabia. I now live in Louiseville, Kentucky in the USA, and my life has turned around dramatically. JRS helped me greatly along the way and so I wanted to tell my story.

Uganda: A long struggle
27 August 2012
Juba, 27 August 2012 – My name is Reuben* and I am a former refugee, now living back in my home country, South Sudan. I want to share my story and thank JRS for the service they provided to me over the years. In 1994, aged just six years-old, I fled with my mother from southern Sudan to Adjumani, Uganda as we tried to escape the terrible war.

Among refugees, my heart found a home
24 July 2012
(Washington, D.C.) July 24, 2012 — Fr. Gary Smith, S.J., author of 'They Come Back Singing: Finding God with the Refugees,' has served refugees as a member of Jesuit Refugee Service since the year 2000. Here he shares some of his thoughts as he prepared to leave his most recent assignment with JRS last month.

Ethiopia: Still going strong
17 May 2012
Dollo Ado, 6 June 2012 – Sofia* is a Somali refugee living in Melkadida refugee camp, Dollo Ado District in southeast Ethiopia. Like many other refugees in this camp, she is faced with a mountain of challenges. A mother of six children, life does not come easy for her, and this is compounded by the fact that she recently lost her husband.

South Sudan: a role model for students and teachers
04 May 2012
Nimule, 4 May 2012 – Esther is a role model for her community. A secondary education teacher of commerce and accounting at Fulla Secondary School, Nimule, and a mother of three, she exudes happiness, confidence and professionalism. However, as a former refugee, the journey to this point has not been easy. She attributes her success to the support of JRS over a period of nearly 12 years, from 2000 to 2011.

Ethiopia: recreation eases difficulty of camp life
03 May 2012
Dollo Ado, 3 May 2012 – My first experience with refugees was in Mai-Aini camp in northwest Ethiopia. I worked with Jesuit Refugee Service as a Sports and Recreational Activities Officer there for just under a year. Eighty percent of the camp residents were young, male Eritrean refugees, most of whom had fled their country for political reasons. The life-affirming challenges I met there prepared me for my current role in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: laughing and learning in Dollo Ado
21 March 2012
(Dollo Ado, Ethiopia) March 21, 2012 – Last year, in August 2011, the children in Melkadida Refugee Camp were struggling to survive. They were on the verge of death. I witnessed their agony and I saw the many pits in graveyards prepared in advance. Now, six months later, life is different and I am happy to watch them playing, dancing, laughing and learning.

Kenya: Christmas in Kakuma
05 March 2012
(Kakuma, Kenya) March 5, 2012 — Fr. Gary Smith, S.J., Jesuit Refugee Service Pastoral Coordinator at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, shares a reflection of Christmas in the camp, which is home to more than 85,000 refugees from several countries throughout Africa.

South Sudan: On Christmas Eve in Palwar
28 February 2012
(Lobone, South Sudan) February 28, 2012 — Every Christmas, a number of Jesuit Refugee Service staff members volunteer to remain at work over the holiday period in order to keep the projects operating efficiently. Fr. Richard O’Dwyer, S.J., Project Director for the JRS Lobone project in South Sudan, reflects on what this experience meant for him during Christmas 2011.

Kenya: Fleeing insecurity and starvation, 17 years on
04 August 2011
Kakuma, 3 August 2011 – Twenty-seven year-old Ahmed* from Somalia has lived in Kakuma refugee camp, north-west Kenya since 2004. As tens of thousands are fleeing drought and conflict in Somalia, he remembers what made him flee 17 years ago.

Kenya: Escaping violence in Congo
28 July 2011
Nairobi, 28 July 2011 – I am a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and I came to Kenya in 2009. When I think of my past, I smile and cry at the same time. I recall that very night when my family was attacked while I was at work, doing the night shift.

Kenya: Where is home?
20 June 2011
Kakuma, 20 June 2011 – Kakuma refugee camp in north-west Kenya was set up in 1992 to host refugees fleeing civil war in Sudan. Today, it hosts more than 78,000 refugees from 11 different African nations. Somalis and Sudanese form the majority but the third largest group are refugees from Ethiopia. More than 5,000 live in the camp, and many have been there for more than 15 years. Hanna* is one of them; she shares her thoughts on life in the camp and her hope for the future.

Ethiopia: Fleeing pain and hopelessness
08 June 2011
Addis Ababa, 8 June 2011 – In early May, Hawa*, a 45-year-old Somali woman, and her four children aged between four and 12 came to the JRS Emergency Needs Programme office in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, asking for help.

Kenya: Escaping forced marriage
08 April 2011
Kakuma, 8 April 2011 – My name is Sarah and I am 24 years old. I have four children and I was born and raised in Southern Sudan.

Eritrea: A country like a prison
01 April 2011
Mai-Aini, 1 April 2011 – My name is Kidan* and I am 33 years old. When I was five years old my family offered me to the Orthodox Church to serve the Lord all my life. As a result, I attended all the training necessary and became a priest**.

Kenya: Students’ voices from Kakuma
21 March 2011
Kakuma, 21 March 2011 - Almost 60 refugees now have access to higher education in Kakuma refugee camp, after JRS officially launched a distance-education project with Jesuit universities in the US. Here are some of the students' reactions on the day of the launch:

Kenya: Widower counsels community while looking after five children
07 March 2011
Kakuma, 7 March 2011 - In May 2010 my wife passed away and left me five children, all underage. I am 64 years old and have no other person who can take care of them if today I pass away.

Kenya: Life continues in spite of pain
28 February 2011
Kakuma, 28 February 2011 – My name is Tumaini*. I am a boy from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and live in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. My country has gone through wars and fighting but for me the 25th October 1996 marked the beginning of great suffering and the death of hundreds of thousands of people.

Uganda: Moving back home
25 February 2011
Kitgum, 25 February 2011 – Paul* is 45 years old and lives in Kitgum District, northern Uganda. He is one of the hundreds of thousands of people who were displaced into camps while the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) terrorised Uganda’s north for more than twenty years.

Kenya: A story of resilience
18 February 2011
Nairobi, 18 February 2011 – I am a Congolese refugee married with three children. Back in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) I was a farmer. Being farmers, we were disadvantaged since rebels could come when crops were ready and take away food and herds of cattle.

Kenya: Refugee helps local child reunite with family
27 January 2011
Kakuma, 27 January 2011 – I fled Sudan in 1996 because of the war. I made my way to Kakuma refugee camp across the border in north-west Kenya and was registered as a refugee.

Kenya: Life in a camp is always the same
20 December 2010
Kakuma, 20 December 2010 – I was forced to leave Ethiopia eight years ago because of political reasons. My father was a business man and was accused by the government of supporting a rebel group. Since 2002 we don’t know my father’s whereabouts. He was sent to prison three times and the last time he didn’t come back.

Kenya: Rwandan refugee glad to receive higher education in Kakuma
13 December 2010
Kakuma, 13 December 2010 – Thirty-one year-old Rwandan refugee Joel is one of the first students to take part in the new JC-HEM distance-learning programme, scheduled to begin official courses in January 2011. Still an asylum-seeker, Joel has had a difficult time finding opportunities for higher education.

Kenya: New distance-learning programme provides hope for Sudanese refugee
25 November 2010
Kakuma, 25 November 2010 – Every day Bol, a 26-year old paraplegic man, pedals his hand-powered tricycle an hour each way from his home through Kakuma refugee camp to attend the first introductory training sessions for the new JRS distance-learning university courses.

Ethiopia: In search of peace and security
17 November 2010
Addis Ababa, 17 November 2010 – My name is Aziza, I am 30 years old. I had a husband and bore him five children. Two of my children died because of diarrhoea while they were babies. The other three, two boys and a girl, are alive.

Ethiopia: An avalanche of challenges
17 September 2010
Addis Ababa, 17 September 2010 – My name is Fatuma and I am one of the thousands of refugees who had to flee Somalia due to the deadly security and humanitarian situation. Especially women and children are driven to neighbouring countries. I am one of them and I face a lot of challenges.

Kenya: Education is my mirror
15 June 2010
Kakuma, 15 June 2010 – I am a 35-year-old male Ethiopian refugee and have resided at Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya since 2001. I fled from my homeland with some of my colleagues in search of protection after we had been harassed, intimidated and imprisoned and, more generally, deprived of our personal and academic rights by the Ethiopian government.

Ethiopia: I came with empty hands
16 April 2010
Addis Ababa, 16 April 2010 – In 2005, I fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with my wife and three children because of the civil war. It took us weeks to arrive at the Ethiopian border after having crossed Uganda and Kenya. When we finally reached the capital, Addis Ababa, our clothes were tattered and we were weak. We presented our cases and sought asylum.

Kenya: Riding on the back of a tortoise
01 March 2010
Kakuma, 1 March 2010 – Abebe Feyissa Demo, an Ethiopian refugee who lived in Kakuma refugee camp for 16 years tells his story. He wrote this article before he was resettled to Australia. A longer version of the article was previously published by the Forced Migration Review (www.fmreview.org, Issue 33).

Uganda: Abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army
13 November 2009
Kitgum, 13 November 2009 – I was 18 years old when I was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The rebels came at 10 o’clock in the morning. We all ran away but they had positioned one of their groups on the other side of our village and we ran right into their hands.

Southern Sudan: Key to a better future
13 November 2009
Kajo Keji, 13 November 2009 – In April 2004, less than a year before a peace accord ended the 22-years civil war in Sudan, I left the refugee settlement in Adjumani District, northern Uganda and headed for my home village in Kajo Keji County, Southern Sudan.

Ethiopia: A child, overwhelmed with adult duties
12 November 2009
Addis Ababa, 12 November 2009 – Jemila* is a ten-year-old Congolese refugee living in Addis Ababa. She speaks the official local language, Amharic, fluently. Since her mother died a couple of years ago, she has been forced to assume adult responsibilities, looking after her father who is an alcoholic.

Southern Sudan: Vincent’s struggle for education
15 October 2009
Nimule, 15 October 2009 – “I am proud to inform you that I have successfully completed my studies and I wish to express my sincere gratitude to JRS who has tremendously supported me in my struggle for education.” These were the words JRS recently received in a letter sent by Vincent, a former refugee, from Southern Sudan. During a visit to our office, he shared his story.

Kenya: Carrying the burden alone
16 July 2009
Nairobi, 16 July 2009 – In 1994, when I was 23 years old, I had to flee from Rwanda because of the genocide. Together with my husband and two children we fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but since we did not feel safe in the refugee camps we moved to Kenya.

Kenya: The forgotten Anyuak community
15 May 2009
Nairobi, 15 may 2009 – I fled from my home in the Gambela region of Ethiopia because people from the highlands who belonged to the ruling government were killing us for reasons which I don’t know.

Kenya: Left alone, persecuted, detained
15 April 2009
Nairobi, 15 April 2009 – I was born in 1983 in Rwanda as the first born in a family of three. My sister drowned when I was eight years old. My father was a politician and my mother was a businesswoman. In 1993, when I was 10 years old, my father left the country due to a political controversy, which resulted in threats and intimidation for him.

Uganda: Surviving in the city
15 April 2009
Kampala, 15 April 2009 – My story is like that of many women who married across the thins and precarious ethnic divide in Rwanda and who became victims of both sides. I am a Tutsi; my husband belonged to the Hutu tribe. We lived in Butare province with our seven children.

Southern Sudan: Starting over
15 April 2009
Lobone, 15 April 2009 – I was born in 1971 in the Eastern Equatoria state of Southern Sudan. When I was 14 years old fighting erupted in our area. I walked 70 miles to Juba where my parents lived for some years, spending the nights outside.

Uganda: Out of the pan into the fire
18 March 2009
Kampala, 18 March 2009 – Bakola* is a Congolese refugee woman living in Uganda. Like many others she was forced to flee from her country in 2000 and sought refuge in neighbouring Burundi.

Uganda: The struggle to be human again
13 February 2009
Kitgum, 13 February 2009 – A better life is not something I just want. It is something I struggle for. I wish I had an easy answer to my life’s struggles but I don’t. I am also very skeptical of any one who claims to. Living in this state of uncertainty will probably continue for some time yet I have to learn to love these struggles and live my life again.

Uganda: Two years with the LRA
13 February 2009
Kitgum, 13 February 2009 – I was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) when I was 13 years old. I remember very well that it was on 17 January 2002. While we were sleeping they came and abducted me, my father and some of my siblings.

Southern Sudan: Becoming a child soldier
12 February 2009
Yei, 12 February 2009 – In 1983, when the second civil war started in his country, Salomon* was only 11 years old. That year the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was established and immediately they began broadcasting on the radio, a very powerful war propaganda tool. At the time, he was far too young to be able to understand what was going on.

Ethiopia: Hope never dies
14 January 2009
Addis Ababa, 14 January 2009 – Nimo* is a 46-year-old Somali refugee woman who has lived with her disability for 15 years. She came to the JRS office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, carried on a stretcher by her own family members.

Uganda: More than conquerors
18 December 2008
Adjumani, 18 December 2008 – I was born in 1988 in Juba, which is now the capital of Southern Sudan, in the middle of the war but old enough to remember the burning of houses and bullets passing the ears of innocent children.

Uganda: Education - a tool for development
18 December 2008
Adjumani, 18 December 2008 – I was born in Loa in 1963, during the First Sudanese Civil War (1955-72) and I was only two years old when my family fled to Uganda.

Uganda: Educated in Adjumani
18 December 2008
Adjumani, 18 December 2008 – I was born in the Eastern Equatoria State in Southern Sudan. In 1984, when I was 11 years old, I started my primary education in Anzara. When the civil war between north and southern Sudan intensified and reached Anzara area in 1991, I was forced to leave with my family.

Kenya: Education is everything
08 December 2008
Nairobi, 8 December 2008 – Armel* was 13 years old when he first came to Kenya in 2001, fleeing the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with his sister and his elder brother.

Uganda: One day in the life of an asylum seeker
14 November 2008
Kampala, 14 November 2008 – Festus*, a Rwandan man, who sought asylum in Kampla 10 months ago, considers himself lucky because he has found ways to survive in the Ugandan capital.

Ethiopia: Counselling saves lives
24 October 2008
Addis Ababa, 24 October 2008 – Elizabeth*, a 24-year-old Congolese refugee, arrived in Ethiopia in 2004 after crossing the bushes and forests of Uganda and Kenya. She was forced to leave her homeland because of the civil war.

Ethiopia: The cost of war
17 September 2008
Addis Ababa, 17 September 2008 – In current Somalia there is little hope for an improvement of the situation. Thousands have become victims of the war, are displaced and exiled, killed innocently, wounded or disabled. The JRS team in Addis shares about one of their encounters with a 24-year-old Somali asylum seeker.

Uganda: English lessons give new perspective
17 January 2008
Kampala, 17 January 2008 – My name is Danny and I am 24 years old. I am a Congolese refugee in Uganda where I arrived in 2000. Before I came to Uganda, life was fine. When we arrived in Uganda everything was new to me. I had friends and neighbours, but couldn’t communicate with them.

Uganda: Life in the bush with the LRA
17 January 2008
Kitgum, 17 January 2008 – I was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in May 2004 from Alua refugee settlement in Adjumani [northern Uganda] at around midnight.

Uganda: Fleeing persecution, seeking freedom
01 January 1900
Kampala, 1November 2010 – I fled Rwanda in late 2009 because I was afraid of the ruling government, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). I used to live in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, with my wife and four children. Life was difficult for us because I faced many problems with the government.