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Malawi: Education initiative impacts young lives
February 19, 2016

Malawi: Education initiative impacts young lives
The current JRS-JC:HEM, Community Health CLST class of 2016. (Robert Kabale Mbanda, Hugo Hivanove Mpenzi, Joseph Kabila Bahulule/ Dzaleka Refugee Camp)
"But now I have a mission, to educate people, to train them to get proper knowledge that will help them and assist the community.”

(Dzaleka, Malawi) February 19, 2016 – A joint initiative of Jesuit Refugee Service and Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins is giving young men and women at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi a chance to better their lives through higher education.

Since 2010 the JRS and JC:HEM initiative has offered tertiary educational opportunities such as Diploma in Liberal Studies, and Community Service Learning Tracks (CSLT) for refugees at the camp. Half of those enrolled in Community Health CSLT are young women, a noteworthy achievement as the program aims to foster community leaders that are truly empowered through education. Young women in particular benefit from this opportunity as they receive both an education as well as a sense of empowerment as they form part of a broader community leadership. 

There is an increasing need for members of the community in Dzaleka to participate in improving community health conditions as it relates to first aid skills, food, sanitation and hygiene due to an ever increasing population in the encampment area. The CSLT course is designed to equip young men and women with valuable knowledge and skills in the field of health. Split into two broad parts, theory and practical parts, the Community Health Track is a nine month course, consisting of 24 weeks of classroom/theoretical training and 12 weeks of practical training for the Dzaleka community.

The course is offered through JRS-JC:HEM via Seattle University, with Dr. Janet Quillian designing the course and serving as the faculty professor. Her areas of expertise in primary health care, community health nursing, primary care education and home health care HIV/AIDS. Due to the large number of selected candidates, the course is split into two classes, with Nestore Buzimba and Aline Bala serving as on-site facilitators.

Buzimba is originally from Uvira, in the southern part of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Fearing for his life as a result of fighting there, Buzimba, a nurse, fled his home country in 2004. Bala, a nurse who also hails from the DRC, is the first female facilitator for JRS-JC:HEM program in Malawi. Despite living as a refugee at Dzaleka Refugee Camp since 2010, she has pursued her education further, and is a Child Protection and Participation Alumnus at JRS:JC:HEM. 

JRS is making a big difference in the lives of many refugees and forcibly displaced people in Dzaleka, such as Gift Thomas, a 20 year old Rwandan who is a Community Health CSLT student. At the age of 4, he and his family were forced to flee Rwanda. The aspirant IT programmer finds life at Dzaleka difficult, but the training he occupies his time and energy with has made a positive difference.

“The life of a refugee is difficult because I am not in my country, so it is very difficult to satisfy my basic needs, Thomas said. “But now I have a mission – to educate people, to train them to get proper knowledge that will help them and assist the community.”
Thomas said he’s grateful for the free education he received so that he can accomplish his dream of becoming a community first aid provider

“I now have a valuable skill to contribute to my community,” he said.  

Another student, Irambona Swema Gyslaine shares her plans: “I plan on starting a project of sensitizing people to know more about health, share knowledge with those who did not get the chance to be part of this program in order to help change their attitudes toward health and sanitation issues for the better.”

Robert Kabale Mbanda, Hugo Hivanove Mpenzi and Joseph Kabila Bahulule/Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi

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Mr Christian Fuchs