Friday, 25 October 2013

Vocational skills raise hope among returnees


The beneficiaries train in hairdressing, carpentry, masonry, tailoring, mechanics, welding and other market-driven skills

When he crossed the border into Rwanda about two years ago, Ibrahim Ngendabanga was extremely excited, because he was returning home after 17 years.

The young man, now in his mid 20s, still remembers every small detail of his life as a refugee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“We lived in huts that leaked whenever it rained,” Ngendabanga recalls. “We ate once every day and the food was not good enough for human consumption. Life was  extremely harsh and somehow unbearable.”

“We were constantly on the move as a result of the unending conflicts in that part [of the DR Congo] and always feared for our lives.”

His family had fled the country in 1994. But in 2011 he decided to end his suffering. He packed his belongings, and headed back to Rwanda.

“When I stepped into Rwanda I felt so happy,” Ngendabanga says.

“Indeed, we were welcomed back home with open arms,” he adds.

But even though he was happy to return home, a few questions continued to linger in his mind,  especially after he reached his home village in Tumba Sector of Huye District.

“I continued to ask myself what I was going to do to turn my life around,” he says. “I couldn’t find the answer immediately. I couldn’t figure out where to start from.”

Thereafter, Ngendabanga resorted to odd part-time jobs to gain a living, sometimes working in other people’s farms or on construction sites.

For his services he earned less than Rwf1,000 a day, which he says was too little for him to plan a long time project.

But then luck came his way a few months ago when he was chosen to pursue a sponsored vocational training under a scheme that primarily  targets returnees.

Today, Ngendabanga is enrolled in a welding course on the outskirts of Huye town and is one of the over 5,000 former refugees who have benefited from a target project aimed at helping their reintegration process in the community.

“I chose welding because of the high demand for such services. I now strongly believe that the future is bright for me and my colleagues,” Ngendabanga says.

After completing his training, he plans to  start his own workshop, build a house and start a family.

Bright future

The Japan-funded project is implemented by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Mudimar) in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The project, which is currently in its fourth phase, helps returnees acquire vocational and technical skills and start-up kits for fresh graduates while others are given small livestock and construction materials, including iron sheets.

Each beneficiary chooses what kind of assistance they need, according to officials.

Since 2010, when the project was initiated, over 8,000 people have benefited from the programme, according to Frederic Ntawukuriryayo, Midimar’s public relations officer, who also doubles as the project manager.

About 70 per cent of the beneficiaries are returnees while others are vulnerable individuals within the community who were selected with the help of local leaders, he said.

The project has so far covered 25 districts. It is currently being implemented in 10 districts of the Western, Southern and Northern provinces. They include Huye, Gisagara, Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru, Nyamasheke, Rutsiro, Rubavu, Nyabihu, Karongi, and Musanze.

Beneficiaries train in carpentry, masonry, tailoring, mechanics, welding, hairdressing and other market-driven skills, while others received assistance in livestock farming.

“The overall aim is to help reintegrate Rwandans returning from different countries and help them start projects that will eventually transform their lives,” Ntawukuriryayo said.

Beneficiaries of the project are now optimistic in the future.

Emmanuel Agabimana, a carpentry student, believes the skills will help him navigate the increasingly competitive world of work.

“Today’s society requires everyone to be hardworking and highly innovative. I believe this training will push me to the next level and help me develop myself,” Agabimana, who returned from DRC in 2011, said.

Domina Uwumukama, a returnee who opted for tailoring, says once she completes her training, the fruits of her efforts will not delay to materialise.

“As I continue to progress in my studies, I believe tailoring will help me to respond to the needs of the people while at the same time giving me an opportunity to contribute to the wellbeing of my community,” Uwumukama said.

“There is high demand for these services out there and that gives me assurance of a better life in the future.”

Vocational skills raise hope among returnees


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