“If given the resources, refugee children excel. It is probably because of what they went through, they see education as a way out.” Mirreille says in response to how she went from escaping the Rwandan genocide to graduating from a top Chinese university with a Medicine degree.
Mirreille left Rwanda with her family when she was two after her father was killed during the genocide. For the next eight years she travelled across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia on foot, before finally settling in Dzaleka camp in Malawi when Mirreille was 10 years old. She remembers the violence, death and conflict which her and her family encountered during their journey and how they often had to survive by eating food from the forest. She arrived to Dzaleka refugee camp with only her uncle and grandfather as her other family members had died or gone missing during their journey.
“I started school in a refugee camp in Zambia, where I learnt English and so I joined the school in grade 3 at Dzaleka Refugee Camp.” Although life was still difficult for Mirreille and her grandfather in Dzaleka camp, she excelled at school. By the time she completed primary school, Mirreille was top of her class and received a scholarship to attend the exclusive Likuni Girls’ Secondary School.
Mirreille completed her secondary education in the top six performers from the whole of Malawi which allowed her to be chosen by the Chinese government for a scholarship which was awarded annually for the top six academic achievers in Malawi.
In 2010 she started her medical studies in Shandong Province, Jinan city, China. Despite the language barrier, she learned mandarin in a year and graduated as a medical doctor in July 2016. She has since moved back to Dzaleka refugee camp and has registered with the Malawian ministry of health.
“Wherever I am needed, I am willing to go. I want to work with people in the rural areas, I would love to work with refugees as I know what they go through. I want to give back to Malawi, because Malawi has given me so much.” she says about her future. “I would not be here if it were not for the Jesuits who educated me and provided me with the foundation on which I could build.”
Tim Smith, Director of Jesuit Missions partner Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Southern Africa says, “When you meet people like Mirreille who have gone through the most traumatic of experiences and yet still have an amazing strength to go on and do such great things, it’s truly amazing. It’s definitely the most rewarding part of my job.”
From September 2018, Jesuit Missions will be launching a new volunteer programme in partnership with JRS Southern Africa which will see UK volunteers working alongside local volunteers as part of a long-term project. Find out more here.
Photo credit: Gushwell F. Brooks-Jesuit Refugee Service South Africa
Posted on 22nd May 2018