Four Mastercard Foundation Scholars share their call for World Refugee Day

By Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at USIU-Africa

Hannah Nyamal
Hannah Nyamal was born in South Sudan. At the age of seven, Hannah and her sister were forced to flee due to instability in the country.

Hannah's brother-in-law, arranged for a humanitarian aircraft to fly them from South Sudan to Kenya. They landed in an unfamiliar place where they stayed for a week before finding their way to Kakuma Refugee Camp in North Western Kenya. Eventually, she and her family settled in a communal home in South-C, Nairobi, where they lived for ten years.
For a while, Hannah’s life was stable. Her brother-in-law had enough income that she could attend school. But when he passed away, Hannah's family was forced to move from South-C to a more affordable two-bedroom house in Umoja, where six of them stayed. Hannah’s sister started a small businesses and managed to support Hannah through high school.

Hannah learned about the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program through a WhatsApp group. She applied for and was accepted into the Program and is now studying a Bachelor Of Arts In International Relations at USIU-Africa.

On World Refugee Day, Hannah is calling on the world to recognize the value that refugee young people bring to the communities they migrate to. Refugees, she stresses, are people who have left their homes and belongings behind to start a new life in an unfamiliar country. They have different stories and experiences, and they deserve recognition and support.

“There is hope, this is a whole new chapter in my life that I never thought I had. My future is now secure and it can happen to any refugee. I started doing my internship in January this year and it has helped me travel back to my camp (Kakuma), give back and empower other refugees especially young girls.”

Ibrahim Yussuf
Ibrahim Yussuf, a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, knows firsthand the difficulties that refugees face when seeking asylum. Born in Somalia, Ibrahim's parents fled to Kenya during the country's civil war. Life in refugee camps was difficult, he shares, as security and access to basic needs such as food and water were constant challenges. Since the camp bordered Somalia, Somali refugees faced the threat of targeted terrorist attacks.

Fortunately, Ibrahim was able to attend school, complete his high-school education, and become a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, enabling him to leave the camps for the first time. He says becoming a Mastercard Foundation Scholar has increased his eagerness and ability to give back to his community. Ibrahim believes that refugees should not be defined by their circumstances but by their potential. He wants young refugees and host communities to know that forcibly displaced young people can become doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, given the right opportunities.

“It is important that refugees are provided with an education. This can prevent them from joining extremist groups in the camps. When refugees are given the chance to learn, they become empowered and more invested in their communities.”

Rebecca Ndinayo
For Rebecca Ndinayo, a refugee from Congo living in Kwangwali refugee camp, Uganda, higher education was a dream that seemed almost impossible.

Rebecca's family initially settled in a camp near Congo but as the war continued, UNHCR resettled them in Uganda. On a daily basis, Rebecca walked four kilometers to attend school. Her family was not allowed to own any property, which constrained opportunities.

Fortunately, Rebecca excelled academically. After completing high school in 2016, she and three friends started a school for refugees, which now has 600 students. However, due to financial constraints, Rebecca’s own education came to a standstill. Rebecca heard about the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program through COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA) – an NGO that coordinates accommodation for refugee students. She applied and was thrilled to be selected for an interview and later for the scholarship.

During her time as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, Rebecca has built a library for the school she started in the refugee camp, which now has 84 books. On World Refugee Day, Rebecca’s call to all of us is: “Refugees are ordinary people and they can excel in life once given the opportunity, regardless of their experience. We are grateful to the partners who support refugees get an education and have an opportunity to change their lives.”

Loruba Manasseh
South Sudanese national, Loruba Manasseh spent much of his life growing up in Uganda. After high school, he secured a job with World Vision International.

Eventually, Loruba was awarded a scholarship from a charity, which allowed him to further his education. Later, a schoolmate from South Sudan Leadership Academy studying at Makerere University informed him of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. Loruba successfully applied to the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at USIU-Africa.

Loruba wants the world to recognize that refugees are real people who have lost everything through no fault of their own and have the same aspirations everyone does. During him time at a refugee camp, he saw a lot of young people marry early, or be lured into substance abuse due to a lack of opportunity and hope. Loruba aims to empower refugees to pursue their dreams and realize their potential. Outside the classroom, Loruba volunteers at a school during his holidays and supports his two sisters who are currently in school.

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