In the Shoes of a Refugee


by Dukuduku Sacolo and Amnesty International UWCM, United World College Maastricht
13th May, 2018


In most cases, we may find it hard to relate to war victims, abuse victims and refugees not only because of we lack sympathy but perhaps of the thought that we are in our comfort zone and the politics of our countries seem alright. But, John Koffi a UWCRBC graduate and currently in his first year at University of British Colombia has written a memoir titled The Journey Much Desired. In his memoir he speaks of his journey from Congo DRC, in 2012 at age eleven, to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi with his parents and later another escape to Mpaka Refugee Camp in ESwatini (formerly known as Swaziland). In the book he speaks of his journey with all its hardships, the cultural shock in a foreign country with a different language and his educational and social life both at UWCRBC in Germany and the University of British Columbia.
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Amnesty International UWCM:
Who is John Koffi, and what inspired him to write The Journey Much Desired?
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John:
I am a Congolese, and a Swazi refugee. I’m 20-years-old, A UWCRBC graduate and currently in UBC as a first year.  In UWCRBC during candle light gatherings, we would all talk about our paths of life, as most UWCs do. Every time I shared my experience, people would be so keen to know much details of the political tension in DRC Congo, especially in Beni, the North Eastern region of DRC Congo where I come from, and my journey to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi and later to a refugee camp in ESwatini. In these conversations, I realized people were keen on listening directly to the stories of a victim of war as opposed to the norm of reading refugee news from reporters on media. This then motivated me, to write the memoir.
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Amnesty International UWCM:
In the memoir, you mention living in a Malawian refugee camp and a Swazi refugee camp, what led to the change?
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John:
Xenophobia sparked in Malawi due to the political crisis in 2010. It took a violent toll, some refugee shops were looted and destroyed and that led to the further escape to ESwatini with my family.
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Amnesty International UWCM:
What is the most difficult experience of being a refugee?
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John: It all starts with the bureaucracy in foreign countries. The immigration laws can be difficult to live up to and they’re always very complex. For instance, currently European countries are deporting refugees instead of providing appropriate assistance. Moreover, the culture shock, language, starting up everything from scratch, getting an education are all a fraction of the list.
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Amnesty International UWCM: What was your source of courage despite all the traumatic encounters, what kept you going?
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John:
I believed in God. Faith kept me hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel. In the camp in ESwatini, I co-founded a youth club, for the empowerment of the youth’s mental health. I was studying at Mpaka High School, where I did well in the national exams of the country in grade 12. This led me to a new journey of a more promising and life-changing experience at UWCRBC, in Germany. The zeal to receive a decent education kept me going.
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Amnesty International UWCM:
Why should people read The Journey Much Desired?
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John: In this book, I believe people will be able to get a better understanding of what it means to be a refugee. People will be able to get into the shoes of one, read of the adverse scenarios of the journey, the stay in a foreign land; not just for pleasure but for people to be able to relate and sympathize with the refugees they come across. Moreover, for refugees as well to be assured that there is a better life beyond the unbearable conditions faced as a refugee.



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