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From War to Milk Vending: Bernard's Journey of Resilience and Hope

In celebrating World Refugee Day 2023, we share the inspiring story of Bernard, a man who defied the odds and found hope amidst darkness. Fleeing the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Bernard's life took an unexpected turn; leaving him separated from his family and badly wounded. His spirit, however, remained unbroken, propelling him on a remarkable journey of resilience and determination.

Posted on 27 Jun 2023

Bernard's arrival in Nairobi as a refugee brought forth new challenges—unfamiliar territory, an unfamiliar language, and a sense of isolation. His longing for the close-knit community he had left behind intensified, yet he never relinquished his dream of a brighter future for his loved ones.

In 2016, Bernard's prayers were answered as he was joyously reunited with his family in Nairobi. However, the struggle was far from over. Limited resources made it difficult for him to make ends meet, leaving him in a constant state of uncertainty.

With the support of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Bernard formed a Community Savings and Loans Association (CSLA) with 12 other refugee. Starting small, Bernard embarked on a venture of selling vitenge (African fabric) in 2018. It was a modest beginning, but laid the foundation for greater things to come. Recognizing the potential in the milk trade, Bernard seized the opportunity.

With assistance from his CSLA, he acquired a loan and invested in a milk vending machine. This helped him to expand his business and open doors for his family's future. Through hard work and determination, Bernard was able to provide for his family and give them a chance at a better life.

Four of his children have completed their secondary education, a testament to his unwavering dedication. Despite all this, separation from his son remains a heart-wrenching obstacle. His son continues to reside in the Kakuma camp.

While grateful for Kenya's hospitality, Bernard yearns for greater freedom; freedom to reunite his entire family. He also looks forward to sending his children to the university.

He fondly reminisces about the life he once enjoyed, where all his children would have been able to join universities and get jobs with the government. His greatest wish is to be resettled and start afresh alongside all his cherished family members.

Bernard's story is a testament to the power of resilience and hope. Despite facing unimaginable challenges, he never lost sight of his dream of providing a better life for his family.

Through the support of organizations like the Danish Refugee Council and the strength of community-based informal financing initiatives like the CSLA, Bernard was able to overcome adversity and build a better future for himself and his family.

We yearn for a chance to return home; if only peace could prevail!

/  Bernard, a refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo

27 Jun 2023
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