By Claude Irumva
"I have seen hundreds of people from different age ranges closing the door of my office with an elastic smile of satisfaction on their face."
These are the words of Jean Paul Maniriho Muzawa, a refugee who is serving as a Medical Doctor at the Byumba District Hospital.
Like other refugees, Muzawa fled his country Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1996 when he was only one year old. He lived all his life in a refugee camp before he got an opportunity to pursue General Medicine at the National University of Rwanda. Muzawa was really inspired by Dr. Binyamu, who was a healthcare provider at African Humanitarian Action, a non-profit organization that provides healthcare services to refugees in camps.
“Dr. Binyamu was like a God when I was young because whoever met her got recovered,” said Muzawa.
This interaction inspired Muzawa to become a medical doctor. Along with the spirit of giving back to the community, Muzawa tried his best to become successful in his studies. He proved this beyond doubt in 2012 when he had the second-highest score countrywide in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Biology (MCB) in the Rwanda National Examination. Even though he got the best scores, he was not classified anywhere in Rwandan’s social-economic classes to be given a Rwandan Scholarship to continue higher education because he held refugee status.
Muzawa made the first remarkable contribution to his refugee community where started volunteering as a mathematics teacher. This contributed to many young refugees in the camp passing their Mathematics National Examination. After one year of helping young refugees in the Kiziba Camp, UNHCR assisted Muzawa to continue his studies at University.
It is well known in the refugee community that when someone gets to another level in life, they leave the camp forever. But that was not the case with Muzawa. While he was in university, he would come back to help students prepare for the National Examinations.
After many years of thinking of how to serve his refugee community, Muzawa and 12 refugee comrades created the Me For You Organization (MFYO) in 2019. It is now operating in the Kiziba Refugee camp to ensure refugee’s self-reliance. It also serves the surrounding host community. “For the time that I’ve been part of this organization, I’ve never regretted for even a second,” said Muzawa.
In addition to his role as a doctor, Muzawa is working as head of the Career Development Department at MFYO where he is preparing young refugees to get the most out of their education. He is doing a great job in preparing those refugees who graduated, and those who have marketable skills, to get employed or to be self-employed. So far, Muzawa has done a class called Skills + where he is trying to bring together refugees from different educational backgrounds to improve the soft skills that make them fit for employment opportunities. Moreover, he is working on a project that will empower teachers in the Kiziba Refugee Camp to guide young refugees about the paths they need to pursue to fulfill their dreams.
The discussion I had with Muzawa was inspiring. Below are three important lessons that can help refugees around the world.
Focus on the present and be grateful for the little things you have today. Muzawa had scarcity throughout his childhood, but focusing on the positives helped him. “I didn’t know where I could get a scholarship to pursue my higher education, but I focused on the present to at least get the very best score that would make me a good fit for any sponsorship whenever it would arise,” said Muzawa.
Pray. There are so many things that people don’t have control over. Muzawa believes that only praying and stopping to worry can help you overcome such challenges. “When you pray, you hope for the best, and that will encourage you to work hard until you achieve them,” said Muzawa.
Live with optimism. Even though Muzawa was living a very terrible life in a refugee camp, nothing stopped him from having confidence that the future was bright for him and his community.
It was very inspiring to interview Muzawa and hear the journey he overcame. I was very impressed by his confidence as a young refugee.
I have always been passionate about giving back to my community. I am now volunteering as a Yount Peer Facilitator at Me For You Organization. Due to the issues related to reproductive health, I am working together with other committed young refugees to raise awareness around this topic. The story of Muzawa has inspired me to do more for my community.
I'm pursuing my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Healthcare Management with a concentration in Communications at Southern New Hampshire University via the Kepler Program. Muzawa’s words taught me to maximize my educational opportunities.
Refugees flee their homes. Some are born and raised in a refugee camp. For many, there have been sleepless nights on the run and heavy rains with no shelters. Some feel hopeless with a blurred vision for a brighter future. The worst of all, though, has been living without a place to call home! To all people, especially refugees out there who are struggling in their life, this article is for you!
Jean Paul Maniriho Muzawa is now serving as a Medical Doctor at Byumba District Hospital. He is a registered member of the Rwandan Medical and Dental Council and has served in different hospitals in the country. He is also serving as a Head of the Career Development Department at Me For You Organization (MFYO). You can connect with him via his LinkedIn.
Claude Irumva is a student at Southern New Hampshire University. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare Management with a concentration in Communications. You can connect with him via Linkedin. He wrote this article after taking part in Global Innovation Academy’s Interview an Innovator online course.