In November of 2013, I returned to my refugee camp to receive the results of the MSCE. Here, I was surrounded by these peers who were engaged with computer courses, the church and charities that aimed to make a difference for kids like us. Their busy schedules left me on my own and accentuated my feelings of inadequacy. Being home made me jealous, and my envy of their progress caused me to question my life in the city and what would become of my decision to leave. I wanted to emulate their ability to take courses and prepare themselves for bigger and better things, but I knew if I followed their example, I would go back to drowning in poverty and the psychological and emotional benefits of intellectual pursuit could not outweigh empty pockets and food-less plates. But, despite this reasoning, I could not escape the feeling that I was missing out. Eventually, I decided to apply to the Jesuit Commons Higher Education at Margins (JC: HEM), seeking scholarship. As part of the application, I needed to provide an analysis of their work in Dzaleka. Their mission was to identify educational needs in refugee communities to help marginalized children access learning opportunities that would empower them to break the cycle of poverty so rampant in this area. These courses helped kids to learn about entrepreneurship, enhance their English skills and encourage them to grow their understanding of other subjects that would give them the foundation for escape from refugee life.
Through this organization, I was able to apply for a Diploma in Liberal studies. In 2014, I was accepted into the program, which is 45 credits completed online via one of the partnering universities in the United States. All of the courses are financially compensated for by donations and taught by volunteer faculty, so this meant I would not need to beg my family for the money necessary to take one this new milestone. I would enter the 2014-2017 cohort and, on October 17, received my official acceptance letter from Regis University in Denver Colorado. Thankfully, my grandparents shared in my celebration. I can only imagine how they worried if this chance I was taking would render me a great success or failure, but they unflinchingly extended their congratulations and affirmed my confidence I had done the right thing by abandoning my grocer duties for something more. I spent days in the Learning Centre as an American student, only to become a refugee again when the doors shut behind me at sunset. I couldn’t be more thankful for this first glimpse of another world, a world full of possibilities. This opportunity made me a happy young man in the camp but instilled in me a deep yearning for more. I wasn’t satisfied with just becoming a student of the program: I wanted something greater. Through the Dzaleka Community Day Secondary School, you also had the chance to become a teaching assistant. To earn this position, one that I thought was honourable and rewarding, you had to successfully complete a formal application process. This included a form, cover letter and in-person interviews that incorporated taking questions from a panel of interviewers, as well as demonstrating how you would work with small groups of students. Admittedly, I was intimidated by both this process and the job description that would follow, but I wasn’t going to be deterred.