Pastor Nduwimana Etienne has called the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp his home for over four months now. Originally from the Rutana province of Burundi, his life has been forever changed by the turmoil and conflict within the government in his home country. “From [our home in] Burundi to the border I traveled by foot, but UNHCR picked us up at the Tanzania border,” he recounts. “The journey was very bad because we came in the night. During the day it was too dangerous for us to travel. It took three days from the time I left home to arrive in the camp.” For his wife and children, who have been here for over six months, the journey wasn’t quite as easy.
Clockwise from top left: Hafashimana Benitha, Ikorivyiza Lionel, Irakoze Sarah, Niyogusha Laissa
“I would hide with my children in houses along the way during the day and only travel at night,” explained Kabura Leonie, Pastor Etienne’s wife. “We were very hungry during our journey because it was a long journey and there was nothing to eat. I was fearing the government during the time we were running because they could arrest us for fleeing. I was relieved when I arrived here at the camp.” After five days of grueling travel by foot, hiding in abandoned buildings by day and walking by night, they finally arrived at Nyarugusu Refugee Camp. But the refuge they sought wasn’t to be found quickly. “Life is very bad in the camp. We don’t have enough food. We don’t have a good home,” says Pastor Etienne as he expresses the difficulties of living in a refugee camp. “When it’s raining it’s very difficult because they can’t cook. There is no charcoal to cook with. The tents also leak.”
Life at the camp is full of daily struggles. Most people came with nothing and have limited clothing, water and food to cook. The best thing about the camp is that there is peace and security. Pastor Etienne is happy because most of his family has arrived safely, but his concern is real when he speaks of his two other children, aged 16 and 26, who remain behind in Burundi. For this family of six, the daily concerns and worries are innumerable. But one thing they no longer have to worry about is whether or not they will have safe water to drink.
Water Mission responded to the growing refugee crisis in Western Tanzania by implementing 10 safe water treatment systems capable of supplying up to 25,000 people with safe water daily. Because of this, families like Pastor Etienne’s can focus on other issues like finding firewood and food for their families. The threat of waterborne disease has been eliminated and with it comes a sense of security and peace to the lives of thousands living within the walls of Nyarugusu.
As he settled into the camp, Pastor Etienne began looking around to see what work there was to be done. He quickly found a group of Congolese pastors who had been living and teaching in the camp for years. He joined their ranks and started working to bring some amount of joy, however small, into the lives of the people around him. “I enjoy teaching people about Jesus and to preach the Good News,” Pastor Etienne says. He understands and has personally seen the power of the Living Water, Jesus Christ. He also knows the power of safe water, and the joy and peace it can bring to people who have lost everything and are hurting. “We don’t have a lot of things,” he says, “but we thank Water Mission for the safe water.”
Read more about Water Mission’s response to the refugee crisis in Tanzania, here.