Stories from the Field
HIAS Rebuilding Lives Around the World
Special children, special threat
For Z, the blessing of children has been mixed. He loves his children fiercely, but two of them are albino. In Africa, he explains, albino children live under a special threat. Not only are they at risk from the burning African sun, but they are in constant danger of being abducted. Considered to have magical powers, their sacrifice is thought to bring good fortune.
After fleeing Goma in the Congo, he sought shelter in a refugee camp but lived in constant fear for his family when he realized that other refugees were plotting to steal his children. At this point the UN stepped in and transferred them to Uganda, where he was referred to HIAS. Today, thanks to a HIAS stipend for food and rent, he and his family live securely. But, they still suffer—“Children,” he says “should not be locked up inside all day.”
His wife just gave birth to another baby boy, this one not albino. On the list for resettlement to the United States, Z fervently hopes for a life of normalcy for all his young children—where they can play outdoors out of harm’s way.
From Burundi to Uganda with 20 kids in tow
For D, life in her native Burundi was full and fulfilling. As a member of parliament, she achieved much, gained the respect of her peers, and lived comfortably. So much so that when she realized that she had the wherewithal to improve the lives of others, she began adopting kids from the street, bringing them into her home as members of her own family. Before long, what was once a family unit of eight (herself, plus seven children) became a cohort of 21. Then, her world fell apart. Overnight, her party fell out of favor, and she was forced to flee. She never even considered not taking all 20 kids with her.
They arrived in Kampala and, without other options, she and her children lived on the streets. Fortunately, they soon came to the attention of HIAS Uganda, whose child protection unit jumped into action. As HIAS clients, the family is provided with rent and lives in two rooms—the boys on one side, the girls on the other. With only the barest of essentials, one of the boys has ingeniously rigged a battery-powered light so his brothers and sisters—one of whom was in medical school when they were forced to leave—can read. Far from her former life in Burundi, D. is comforted knowing that with the help of HIAS, soon she and her large family will be resettled in Canada.
A Passion to Help Others
At the age of 12, on her own, M. was forced to flee the violence in the Congo with her three younger siblings. The youngest was three months old. Once they reached Uganda, they lived on the streets until a kindly stranger took them in. Longing for her parents, M. left her siblings in the care of the stranger and returned to Congo. There she was abducted, raped, and became pregnant, but never found her relatives. Upon her return to Kampala, she was told to find new accommodations, where she was forced to clean toilets to ensure a roof over her head.
That’s when she came to the attention of HIAS and under the care of David Agoya, HIAS Uganda’s social worker. David made certain that M received rent and a food stipend so that she could live in safety and care properly for her baby boy. It is no accident that she named her child David.
“When I hear the name ‘David,’ I think of life,” says M, who at one point was in such despair that she contemplated suicide. “Since David started caring for me, I feel my life coming back to me.”
As for David, he says: “I have a passion to help others. I feel so happy that I change people’s lives. When I go home at night, after a day at work, I rest well.”