Henri has established a refugee assistance program called "Enough is a little" after he entered Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS) in Rwanda. TUFS Today interviewd him about it, so let us share the article here too. You can check the original article from here.
Giving refugees a chance to study! -An interview with Henri, an exchange student who established a refugee assistance program
Henri is a Burundian who fled to Rwanda in 2015 due to political instability in Burundi and studies at the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at PIASS since 2018. Soon after entering PIASS, he founded a program called "Enough is a little" to support young refugees wanting to study at university. Henri is currently raising funds for a young refugee, Claude, to study at PIASS from this February. We interviewed Henri about his project and prospects.
----Could you tell us your background before entering PIASS?
In 2015, I fled from Burundi which was politically unstable to Rwanda with my father and three young brothers. It was June 26th. My mother and two sisters are still in Burundi. Before fleeing to Rwanda, I was a high school student, and I was able to continue my studies in Rwanda because my grades were good and a non-government organization "Maison Shalom" supported my life expenses, transportation and tuition fees in a boarding school outside the refugee camp. However, it was challenging for me to study at a Rwandan high school. In Burundi, our official language is French and we learn in French at school, whereas we learn in English in Rwanda. At that time, I couldn't understand English, so I had to take classes in English and learn the language at the same time. I studied really really hard and was able to graduate in 2017.
----Did you enter PIASS right after graduating high school?
No. I went back to the refugee camp and stayed there for 10 months. During that time, I applied for scholarships for various universities in Rwanda and finally won the one from PIASS. It is not easy for refugees to go to university. We are ineligible for scholarships from the Rwandan government, and even if we were able to receive a scholarship from a private university or a non-governmental organization, opportunities are limited compared to the number of refugees in need. Besides, most of the scholarships cover only tuitions, which means we have to manage life expenses by ourselves. Fortunately, at PIASS, I continuously got support from "Maison Shalom", so financial matters had not been an issue for me. However, they told me that they had financial problems and were not able to continue supporting me since last October, so I will have to find a way to continue my study at PIASS after going back to Rwanda in July.
----What motivated you to establish the "Enough is a little" program?
When I was applying for scholarships for various universities, some bridge programs helped me a lot to find universities and to prepare the necessary documents. So, it came across my mind that it would be helpful for other young refugees if I could help them to apply for scholarships with my knowledge and experience. I named the program "Enough is a little" since any "little" help can be "enough" for young refugees.
----How do you help young refugees specifically?
I collect scholarship information and provide it to young refugees who want to go to university, and give them advice about how to write their application forms and also check them. It's like a coordinator job. Because I won a scholarship as a refugee, I can give effective advice from a refugee's perspective. I have helped 50 refugees so far, and 12 were able to go to university.
----Could you tell us about the fundraising project you're currently doing?
It is a project to collect life expenses for a young refugee called Claude who will enter PIASS from this February. He has won the scholarship from PIASS, but it covers only the tuition and health insurance fee. So, I decided to collect 2,000,000 RWF (approx. 230,000 JPY) as his life expenses for 30 months and money to buy a laptop. Two Japanese students who studied at PIASS in 2020 are helping me, and we will continue the project until the end of February. It is my first challenge to help a young refugee financially.
----What are your future plans?
If this fundraising project succeeds, I want to find other possibilities for financial support. I also want to consider sending young refugees to universities not only in Rwanda but also all over the world. Actually, some refugees get scholarships from universities outside of Rwanda, but they have to give up the opportunity because some scholarships don't cover enough or because they can't enter these countries with refugee passports. However, I can make use of my experience and hopefully send refugees to foreign universities in the near future. I will also help young people who are not specifically refugees. I think this will bring refugees and non-refugees together and give them an opportunity to help each other.
----Finally, could you tell us what your dream is?
To be honest, it is hard to answer this question... In Rwanda, as a developing country, it is not very easy to find a job even for those who have graduated universities. When it comes to refugees, we can't live outside of the refugee camp unless we have income. But, I definitely want to continue the "Enough is a little" program. Although I am the only member of the program, people who have entered universities with my help can support others receive scholarships and enter universities. The circle of support is continuously expanding. I hope I can give the chance to study at university to as many young people as possible.