Peace at last in Australia

Trinite Uwimana has a story to tell about her eight years living in a refugee camp.
Trinite Uwimana has a story to tell about her eight years living in a refugee camp.

When civil war broke out, the young mother and wife was forced to flee her home, leaving her and her family with nowhere to go.

‘Everyone was killing each other,’ she said.

‘I was worried my family was going to die. I had to save our lives.’

Faced with no other choice, Ms Uwimana moved with her husband at the time, and their first-born child, to a Tanzanian refugee camp where she hoped for a more peaceful life.

Ms Uwimana said the camp was like a movement, really organised with agencies such as UNICEF helping to give people a better life.

‘There were many, many people living in the camp, about 400,000,’ she said.

‘We lived in a tent for the first six months.

‘Some people were eaten by lions or other wild animals.

‘It took years for us to get permission from the government to build mud bricks and have better homes that protected people from getting eaten by the animals from the national park close by.’

The Edmund Rice Centre volunteer said there were many robberies in the camp so a group formed to coordinate ways to keep people, especially children, occupied.

As a qualified teacher, Ms Uwimana was in charge of coordinating education in the camp.

‘I would get paid 23 shillings a month, so 30 days of work,’ she said.

Ms Uwimana said she enjoyed teaching but that life wasn’t as peaceful as she had hoped it would be in the camp.

‘The Tanzanian police were very protective of the camp,’ she said.

‘So much terrible stuff happened.

‘People were neglected.’

She said there were cases of people being doused in petrol and set alight for speaking against the police.

‘Every day many people died, many women, many children, and I was hurting.

‘I couldn’t see a future and didn’t know where we were going to end up.’

Ms Uwimana and her family, which expanded to six, lived in the camp for eight years.

They eventually got the chance to immigrate and moved to Australia in 2007.

‘It’s very different here, you get to have a say and the police are friendly,’ she said.

Now a single mother of five, Ms Uwimana’s life has turned upside down.

She no longer fears for her life, is safe and happy, a foster carer and studying a diploma in childcare.