life had been my strictest and smartest teacher

Even then, I had a few Malawian friends from the surrounding villages who admired life in the refugee camp. The poverty that surrounded their compounds led them to believe that we, their refugee friends in the camp, were better off because the monthly food donations that camp residents received from the UNHCR. Little did they know how circumstances turned around when this aid was delayed for reasons no one understood. In pursuit of their dreams to live in the camp, these Malawian kids came to look for jobs that enabled them to – even just temporarily – seek overnight refuge within its gates. A few of them had worked with me at a local bread bakery, owned by a Burundi man named Nduwayo. I earned 300 Malawian Kwachas, ($2 USD) at Nduwayo’s bakery, as a weekly payment deposited in my pocket every Tuesday. The hunger of inaction drove me to better understand that no one was going to look out for me. All those years in transition, away from the woman who birthed me, life had been my strictest and smartest teacher. I learned to be responsible for my own happiness and success, I had to. Even though my grandparents had tried their best to support me, at the end of the day I was left alone to take care of my own needs. Of course, basic needs like food and shelter were my grandparent’s responsibility, but anything beyond that was my responsibility. Whether it was replacing tattered clothing or building upon my miniscule collection of hygiene products, I was responsible for supplementing the barest necessary, and with that ability, my life was happy and complete. Other than that, it was good my grandparents helped make sure I was going to grow up into a well-mannered, disciplined young man. Their diligence with regards to developing my character is something I will always remain grateful for.

Published by Gabriel Ndayishimiye

Gabriel Ndayishimiye lives in London, Ontario. He is a writer with a passion to contribute to Black history and literature; and the author of “Run Elvin” (forthcoming), a memoir written for youth from marginalized backgrounds. This book tells Gabriel’s academic/life experiences from refugee camps in East and Southern Africa and now from the metropolis of the western world. The story aims to inspire and motivate such demographic of youth to take up given opportunities to be creative, achieve success, and develop resilience to fight the challenges of life.

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