Stand together to build the future
Letter to Friends around the World # 81

The Tushirikiane Afrika Association relies on volunteer refugees who take responsibility for welcoming new refugees continuing to arrive by their hundreds, in the Kenyan capital. Some of these volunteers fled their countries more than 15 years ago. In turn, they continually welcome new exiles from the Great Lakes countries:

The volunteers ceaselessly turn their attention to the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, even after sometimes spending years travelling from country to country, and coping with a very precarious existence themselves. It takes courage to live in a rundown area where Mr P lives, in a damp room with no light, like a cellar, with two younger brothers, a teenage cousin and a niece, who looks so nice in her school uniform!

'A', one of the volunteers urges them to have faith: “I was like you. Everybody goes through it. You’ll see, it’ll get better. You’re alive and that is your strength.” Tushirikiane Afrika also makes a great effort to work alongside young people, most of whom have arrived in Nairobi without their families. Uprooted and forced to live in hiding if their applications are rejected by the High Commission for Refugees, they are regularly reminded that they are foreigners without rights. One of them speaks about the efforts he has made to find his way in the world: “I could say that I've tried 10 things and each time, I found nothing. But, I’d rather say that I’ve done 10 things and that each time, I found that it wasn’t right.” He finds the strength to pick himself up even worse off than him. “The future of the world is in our hands, in “your" hands and in “mine.”

Another says: (…) I’m Congolese because that’s where I was born. But I’ve lived all of my life in other countries. I’ve been through a lot but I’m alive. My whole life has been a struggle for survival, without parents. (…) I’ve been told about an orphanage where life is very hard for the children there. I wanted to be with those children. But my friends discouraged me: “You don’t get paid!” But I feel good when I'm with the children and happy that I am in their lives and they are in mine. You can support others in your own way without money. I always ask myself: “Am I good at what I’m doing?”

The volunteers of Tushirikiane Afrika witness daily peace being built among people whose communities and countries are sometimes locked in bitter conflicts. They refuse to allow themselves to be prisoners of the past: “What does it matter which religion or ethnic group we belong to or what our nationality is, whether Congolese, Burundian or Rwandan? We are all exiles and we should stand together to build the future.”

Tushirikiane Afrika Association, Kenya