Today, Gilbert Nizigiyimana is 27 years old. The day his family was murdered, he was only eight. Gilbert was the only one who could escape through a window. He and his wife Violette Nimbona fled from Burundi. The couple has been living in a refugee camp with three other cousins since 2014. Three rooms for five people, no electricity, no water – that’s what life is like for Violette and Gilbert. “Life is hard here”, Violette says, “but I hope that someday our baby will be better off than we are now.”
The 26-year old strokes her belly, and for a fleeting moment her expression becomes very serious. The next instant she’s back to her radiant smile. Despite the difficult circumstances in the refugee camp, Violette has remained an optimistic person. Only when asked about their flight do Violette and Gilbert become serious. Their faces are marked by the horror they’ve seen.
Gilbert was eight years old when he witnessed the murder of his parents and four siblings at the hands of their own relatives. Only Gilbert managed escaping through a window. All alone, he fled to the neighboring country of Tanzania. From there, he fled from one place to another, working at construction sites or taking up other odd jobs, until he reached a refugee camp in the northwest of Kenya in 2012. Going to school was never an option for the introverted man.
Violette was also forced to flee after a violent conflict within her family. Next to Violette’s mother, her father also had a second wife, whose family had Violette’s mother murdered. This put her in danger of an attack as well, and so the young woman decided to flee the country. She brought with her a document certifying her training as a nurse. When she reached Kakuma in 2014, she hoped her degree would be acknowledged – what a disappointment it was for her to learn that the Kenyan state did not issue working permits outside of the refugee camps.
Now, both have not only found work in a hospital run by an aid organization at the camp, they have also found a home there. Violette and Gilbert have completed training as medical assistants and now support the hospital staff in their daily tasks. For the sake of the baby, that is due in a few weeks, they are hoping for a bit more space and a better house. To the soon-to-be parents, a home with running water and electricity seems like a distant dream – the camp’s infrastructure isn’t designed for that. Nevertheless, they want to stay in Kenya, or maybe move on to a different country. Just as long as there is peace there.