Burundi To America

Each day, I walked at least two miles to fetch clean water from the fountains.

“I was born in Burundi in 1994 and that same year we fled to Tanzania. In Burundi there are two ethnicities that are opposites and hate each other - the Hutu and Tutsi. The Hutu were attempting a genocide against the Tutsi. My parents are from different tribes; my mom is Tutsi and my dad is Hutu. If my mother would have stayed, she could have been killed. So my parents, older brothers, older sister and I left during the war.

My parents remember hearing gunshots when we fled. They covered us as we trudged through the rain and deep waters. We made it out of our village and hid during the night. My dad borrowed a government vehicle to help us escape.

We fled to and lived in a huge refugee camp in Tanzania for twelve years. It was built by refugees. It had dirt roads and homes built of wood and bricks. The main source of transportation was by bike. When it rained, there was an incredible amount of flooding. Water ran everywhere. The sewer was terrible.

Each day, I walked at least two miles to fetch clean water from the fountains and then I went to school. Every Wednesday, we received our food supply for the week. For twelve years that was my life; I couldn’t imagine anything better, except what I had seen in movies.

The Tanzanian government wanted to restore refugees to their countries after the war in Burundi ended. We couldn't go back because there were people from Burundi who were trying to kill those who fled during the war. My parents decided that it was better for us to go to another country. We started applying with the United Nations in 2005 to go to any other country besides Burundi. It was a very long process filled with meetings, seminars, interviews, pictures, and an investigation to determine if our case was legitimate. Finally, after two years, we got approved and we were assigned to go to the United States.”

There is a huge difference between how I’m living now and where I used to be.


“When we came to the States I realized that America was a total change from what I was used to. As a kid, you are just impressed, you want to enjoy things, but you’re not necessarily worried about being grateful and appreciative. But as I reflect back and have conversations with friends about what life was like before, I realize that there is a huge difference between how I’m living now and where I use to be.

Back in Tanzania, my parents had their own businesses. My mom owned a salon with her best friends and their work brought in a good income for our family. My dad imported corn and beans from other villages. He also was very skilled in sewing - African people like things that are very decorated. It was difficult for my parents when we first moved here. The manual labor in the factories was very hard on them. They were not used to cutting things and standing for so many long hours at a time. The language was also very difficult for them to learn since they didn't start learning until they were older. I’m so proud of my parents. They’ve done so much. They don’t have as much education as some, but if you look at the things they’ve done for seven children, it is pretty amazing. I don’t think I could do what they did with the knowledge that I have today. They brought us to a nice place and provided opportunities for us to learn. They are brave and intellectual people even though they did not acquire their knowledge in a school.

I want to study hard and learn as much as I can and then go to medical school to become a doctor. It’s kind of tied to my background - where I was, where I’ve been. In Africa health care is very poor. When I retire, I want to move back to Africa to help the people who don’t have as much as I now have.”

From: Burundi
Refugee Camp: Tanzania
Current Location: United States
Family: Parents, 6 siblings
Occupation: Student
Age: 22