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Love and Hope for a Nice Life in Mtendeli Refugee Camp

“I fell in love with her because she was different than other girls. She wasn’t trying to be with every boy. She just wanted to get to know me.”

I leaned in close to hear Gerald talk about what it was about Alice, his wife, that made him fall in love with her. We were sitting together on light blue plastic chairs in a Child Friendly Space classroom in Mtendeli Refugee Camp in Tanzania.

In 1993, Gerald became an orphan when he was 5 years old in Burundi. His parents were Tutsi, and both died during what he describes as “the war.” After that, Gerald says, “I had a very challenging life.” He fled to Tanzania to live in a refugee camp with his grandparents. Because he was considered an orphan, Gerald said he was given “more help” from aid organizations and was able to attend primary school. He credits this time in primary school for his becoming a good student and “intelligent” man.

Around 2005, Gerald returned to Burundi to complete his secondary school … and meet Alice. Following graduation, he asked for her hand in marriage, and they were all set to have a “nice life.” Not like here in Mtendeli Camp, he says.

Gerald is now 25 years old and again living in a refugee camp in Tanzania, this time as an adult with Alice and their two young children, Junior and Lucky. Gerald does not have a job; most days, he only eats a meal in the evening so Alice, Junior, and Lucky can eat two meals during the day.

“If I eat in the afternoon and the evening, then the food we are given by the World Food Program will end too soon,” he explains.

Gerald’s desire to provide for his family is evident. When I asked him about hope, he responded, “My hope for the future is to get a nice life for my family. A nice life means to have a house of our own and to have enough food to eat every day.”

Gerald, Alice, Junior, and Lucky are one family amongst more than 50,000 Burundian refugees living in Mtendeli Camp in Tanzania, striving to maintain hope for basic necessities and a “nice life.”


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