My Years in Refugee Settlement in Uganda Changed My Perspective and Way of Thinking

Plem Kijamba Lushembe, is a refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo. He lived in Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement in Uganda from 2015 to 2021. However, in January 2021, Plem was resettled to Canada where he is pursuing further studies in social sciences through the Student Refugee Program.

Windle International Uganda (WIU) in partnership with World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is implementing the Student Refugee Program (SRP) in Uganda reaching out to refugee youths who are between 18-25 years, residing within urban (Kampala) and 13 refugee settlements. The Student Refugee Program is a youth to youth sponsorship model, providing access to higher education and resettlement in Canada.

Plem heard about the Student Refugee Program in 2018 while still in Rwamwanja refugee settlement. Plem had never in his imagination thought of stepping foot in Canada or even study there but still went ahead to apply. “I heard about this program through a former Windle International employee based in Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement who encouraged me to apply. I applied and I was lucky to be among those selected. I was informed on 7th January that I been selected to be among the beneficiaries. This was exciting because I knew I am getting closer to achieving my dreams,’’ Plem said.

Adjusting to Life

Plem relocated to Canada and is adjusting to life. “The Canadian way of life is totally different from life in Uganda. Time moves faster here. There are lots of engagements, including my assignments as a student. The schedule is tight too but I have adjusted. Sometimes, I lack time to talk to my family in Uganda. I know we miss each other but I also know they understand,” he noted.

He notes that Canada is one of the most tolerant and culturally diverse country. “We live with differences, mostly cultural, and the first thing I did was to accept these challenges. It helped me a lot in integrating in my new community, facilitating my involvement at the school campus, finding new friends, and rejoicing at every moment that I can.” He says this is one of the ways that enables societies to live together in harmony. Accepting that we are different and respecting it!

Plem notes that moving to Canada has not only been a discovery for him, but a renaissance for his family. He notes that two years ago, his family was struggling for but all that is in the past thanks for this program.  His family can now afford basic needs through his efforts and hard work.  “I believe I am well positioned to transform my family’s living conditions and to share my experience and knowledge to help my fellow refugees.”

Plem will be graduating from college in December 2022 and join university after.  “I am currently applying for a bachelor’s degree program in international development at McGill University, a step that will shape my knowledge and experience.”

“It’s through the education that I am benefiting from here that can guide me into accomplishing a positive socio-economic change in my oppressed communities. It has been my desire and I am positively looking forward to seeing it come true,” he revealed.

Everyone I have shared with about my experience and desire to join the university program says it totally makes sense.

He says that the six years’ experience in a refugee settlement in Uganda changed his perspective and way of thinking. “I now believe that there’s always a way of transforming our pain into joy.”

To fellow refugees around the world Plem notes;

“I know and understand what you are going through. I went through the same within six years in Uganda, and every passing day was a huge accomplishment. Today, I am writing to you this simple message not as a refugee but a permanent Canadian resident. Keep hope and continue fighting for what you believe in. Don’t allow the misery you’re living in today to hinder you from seeing beyond. I believe you have all ability and capacity to overcome that. YOU’RE NOT ALONE!”

 In August 2022, there are more than one hundred refugee youths who entered Canada for higher education through the Student Refugee Program. “Behind these students, I also see more than one hundred refugee families whose hope has been restored. This program changes lives, restores hope. As a young person from refugee communities, the best I can hope for is to see the world supporting such initiatives,” Plem shared his words of encouragement to the recently resettled students.

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