Inspiration from Education: Dogon Nshimiyimana and Oath for Good
From Dogon Nshimiyimana, refugee activist & Oath for Good intern
As a refugee activist, Oath for Good intern, and master's student at NYU in International Education, you could say I've had many opportunities in life. The reality is that it wasn't an easy path to get here. After living in the Gihembe refugee camp in Rwanda for 22 years, my past informs my appreciation of the present and the direction of my future. While it doesn't define me, it serves as a guide and complement to who I am today.
I recently had the chance to share my story with the United Nations Economic and Social Council at their Humanitarian Affairs segment. I spoke alongside UN leaders about the needs of displaced people, and the experience prompted me to look back on how far I have come. I quickly realized how bright my future will be. Sadly, my good fortune is not the norm—issues for the more than 68 million displaced people globally remain worse than ever.
My own personal story illustrates some of the challenges we face. I was born in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in Northern Kivu Province, Masisi Territory. In 1996, armed groups began targeting the Bagogwe people (Bagogwe are an ethnic minority of Congolese Tutsis), including my family. We were forced to flee and entered Rwanda in April of that year. For 22 years I lived in a refugee camp, until now. I survived many harrowing times, but a few memories stick out in particular. The first refugee camp I lived in was attacked, and the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) evacuated us to where my family currently lives in Northern Rwanda. When I started school at the camp, there weren't classrooms and we gathered under trees until 8th grade. Classes had to be canceled when it rained. I only ate the same sized portion of beans and corn every three days for 22 years, because refugees are given $6 dollars per month. Despite this, I never gave up. I kept pushing, stuck to my studies, and dreamed that one day the sun would shine on me.
And it did. Last August, I was able to come to the US to study because people believe in me. I am paying it forward by empowering 35 refugees widowed by the war through their own businesses, and by sending two young refugees to university in my own program, called Healer of Broken Souls. When I am in a difficult situation, I immediately remember how I finished high school with only two thin notebooks. It motivates me to keep pushing forward and to stay optimistic. Now I go to one of the best schools in the world.
Oath's social impact arm, Oath for Good, is helping raise awareness and activism for the refugee crisis through its partnership with the Tent Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of refugees.