NAIROBI, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Bahati Ernestine Hategekimana has lived in Kenya for the last 22 years having fled her native Rwanda together with next of kin when the Central African country was engulfed in civil strife.
The 24-year-old nursing major at a public university in Kenya grew up hearing traumatizing stories of war, killings and devastation that shattered the dreams of her forebears while forcing them to seek refuge in neighboring countries.
Hategekimana moved the audience at an event to mark World Refugees Day in Nairobi on Wednesday when she narrated the emotional pain that victims of war have endured as they struggle to rebuild shattered lives in their new abode.
"As a young refugee who has lived in Kenya since the age of two, I'm well versed with the agony and struggles my relatives endured as chaos engulfed our country," Hategekimana remarked.
"Truth be told, I have also endured my fair share of pain, resentment and sense of rejection but that has not stopped me from dreaming for a better future," she added.
Hategekimana was privileged to enroll in a private school in Kenya that was built by her forebears who were driven by an unwavering desire to start a new life in their adopted country.
"These refugees who came before us valued education and taught us to dream big. The trauma of war and poverty only emboldened their resolve to leave behind an enviable legacy for future generations," said Hategekimana.
She revealed that while at middle school, a male doctor inspired her to aim for the skies and defy roadblocks that often stood in the way of refugee girls settled in foreign countries.
"Now I'm pursuing a career in medicine thanks to the constant advice and motivation from the school Doctor. I look forward to mentor young refugees living here in Kenya and encourage them to study hard in school in order to change their life's trajectory," Hategekimana remarked.
The vivacious young refugee is a decorated peace campaigner who has vowed to utilize her intellect, networking and oratory skills to unite her compatriots living in foreign lands.
Kenya marked the 2018 World Refugee Day amid call for concerted efforts to rebuild their lives through basic education, vocational training and employment.
Fred Matiangi, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior, said that access to essential services like education, health and shelter is key to empower refugees and enhance their integration in the host country.
Charles Ochero Osborne, a Ugandan refugee who settled at Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya in 2012, said that his childhood dreams of becoming an engineer are being slowly realized thanks to the magnanimity of his host country.
"I cherished the dream of becoming an engineer since childhood but was forced to defer it to another day due to inter-communal hostilities that forced my family to look for refuge in Kenya," said Ochero.
"A teaching career at Kakuma refugee camp later paved way for me to enroll for a diploma in water engineering at Kenya water Institute. My desire is to see education standards at refugee camps improve," he added.
The 28-year-old student leader is convinced that a career in engineering will not only transform his life but also inspire young asylum seekers keen to realize their dreams in their host country.
Kenya has for decades played host to populations fleeing turmoil in the horn of Africa and great lakes region.
The East African nation currently hosts an estimated 1000,000 refugees mainly from Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, DRC and other regional countries though the numbers have declined since a voluntary repatriation process began four years ago.
Raouf Mazou, the UNHCR Representative in Kenya stressed that life-long learning coupled with economic empowerment is key to transform the lives of refugees from neighboring countries.
"Socio-economic empowerment of refugees in their host country through education and jobs will enable them to realize their full potential," Mazou said.
Nadine Murekatete, a 17-year-old high school student whose native country is Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said her determination to succeed in class will not be diminished by any form of stumbling block.
"I would like to pursue a degree in law at the university and help fellow refugees' access justice," Murekatete told Xinhua.
"So far, I'm devoted to my class work and have forged long-standing friendship with Kenyans who always encourage me to feel at home as I pursue my future dreams," She added.