UCU graduate work to ‘undo violence’ for ‘peaceful co-existence’ in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2018/09/ucu-graduate-work-to-undo-violence-for-peaceful-co-existence-in-kyaka-ii-refugee-settlement/
By Brendah Ndagire
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
Anna Betu, a 2018 Uganda Christian University (UCU) graduate and a recipient of the UCU Partners Sponsor program, is wasting no time in doing what the late South African leader practiced and believed. Before July, when she attained her prestigious First Class Degree (a 4.5 of 5.0 Grade-Point Average) in Bachelors of Arts in Governance and International Relations, she was already working. She was employed as a Protection Assistant by the Danish Refugee Council, accompanying predominantly Congolese and Burundian refugees resettled in Kyaka II Settlement, Kyegegwa District (Western Uganda).
There are about 25.4 million refugees of ethnic cleansing, civil war and genocide worldwide, according the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 2018 report. Just days before Anna Betu’s UCU graduation, this interview was conducted at the Kyaka settlement which supports more than 70,000 refugees from the Republics of Burundi and the Congo.
What inspired you to pursue the Governance and International Relations Program at Uganda Christian University (UCU)?
I first wanted to study Procurement and Logistics but when I looked at the educational trends in Uganda, there were very many people who had (studied) procurement and logistics. In addition to getting an education that would lead to a job, I wanted to try out something different. Since my childhood, I have been fascinated by politics, governance and leadership. When I went to UCU, and saw that they had a program in Governance and International Relations, this seemed a good fit. I have always wanted to be a leader, and I felt like this program would be something that would help understand how to lead our own people and how different countries relate with each other.
How has your education at UCU prepared you for your vocation at the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) Uganda?
The Governance and International Relations Program is only (available) at UCU. I am the first UCU graduate to work (with DRC). I had classes on refugees, international law, peace-building, communication, public and international relations. My all-round education has enabled me to implement here most of the things I studied. Refugee conditions are an international relations issue. Because of what I learned at UCU, I am equipped with the expertise (to understand ) how we engage with particular (refugee) cases. I see that some governments are not standing up to what has been ratified within the international laws concerning refugees and their protection. When I look at the current conflict in the Congo and the rest of the world, I understand their root causes because that’s something we studied extensively throughout our program. As a result of the classes I took on international law and relations, I am the only person that assists our organization’s lawyer to ensure that the legal issues of refugees are settled.
As a beneficiary of the UCU Partners Scholarship, how was the scholarship helpful to you?
After eight years of being out of school due to financial difficulties, most universities did not look at me as a credible candidate for their programs. What I am giving back to the community is very little compared to what UCU Uganda Partners has invested in me.
The financial support I received from Uganda Partners is now benefiting 70,000 people here at Kyaka II Settlement.
Because a few individuals gave (money) towards my education, I am able to be in this position to give support to vulnerable people in settlement communities. The Uganda Partners’ scholarship has given me hope and inspired me to look beyond a Bachelor’s degree. I would love to have a Masters or even a PHD and become a Consultant on immigrants and refugees in Uganda and in Africa at large. This UCU Partners’ scholarship has laid a wonderful foundation. I am very empowered and very hopeful about my future, my children’s future, and the futures of refugees.
Tell us about your experience accompanying refugees in Kyaka II Settlement community?
I had my internship here. My performance as a student laid the groundwork for me to be a full-time DRC employee even before I graduated from UCU. I wanted to come back and they wanted me to come back. During my internship, I developed relationships with my clients that are building even more now. But as a full-time employee, I am more accountable to refugees. It is important to evaluate my success by looking at the progress and happiness of my clients. Some of my clients come to me when they are very sad, and after interacting with them, and solving their problems, I see them smiling. My success is then fulfilled by their smiles, and happy faces. Obviously, every context has its own challenges. Each refugee has his/her struggles. War affects women, children, and men differently. Some people come out of (the war areas) traumatized, disabled, unaccompanied, and my job is to walk with them in their healing journey. I pray for their healing, and every morning in my devotion, I set aside a time to pray for refugees and our staff who accompany them.
While Uganda has had an open-door policy towards refugees, other countries have closed their doors to migrants. Amidst this and other challenges faced by refugees here and beyond, what keeps you committed to the work you are doing at the Kyaka II refugee community with DRC Uganda?
The innocence of the people I work with keeps me committed to the work I am doing. They are victims of violence. I understand that I work with victims of violence and together as a (DRC) community, we are committed to find a plan that would make their lives better. I may be a drop in the ocean that is working against the daily structures that cause violence, but the truth is I am working from the bottom up approach to undo violence to educate young people and adults in the settlement on the impact of violence, what they can do to solve violence, and learn about peaceful coexistence.
Finally, what is your advice to current UCU students?
Understand your God-given purpose. We are occupying a very globalized space. Take time to identify your space and operate from that space to transform your community. And identify a problem in your community and be part of solving it. Finally, be passionate about something you are doing and love it.
For more information about how you can sponsor a student who might make a difference as Anna is, contact Mark Bartels, UCU Partners executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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