Here’s the feature story from the most recent FORGE newsletter:
In Meheba Refugee Settlement, it’s hard not to notice Brigitte and Boniface, a married couple in their late 30s. The proud parents of two young children, they have lived in Zambia as refugees for five years. The couple was forced to flee the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 when the school where Boniface taught was attacked by rebel forces. At the time they fled, Brigitte was seven months pregnant with Easter, their oldest daughter, who would be born in prison after they crossed the border. After a few months in separate prisons (their refugee status was difficult to achieve), Brigitte and Boniface reunited in Lusaka, where they lived for a few years as urban refugees before moving to Meheba.
With a degree in biochemistry from the University of Lubumbashi, Boniface speaks eleven languages fluently. He has pursued careers in business and teaching in Zambia’s capital. Despite his talents and qualifications, Boniface has faced numerous barriers to holding stable employment due to the high cost of work permits, and heavy prejudice against refugees. Boniface currently works as the Office Manager for the FORGE Microfinance Institute (FMI) in Meheba. After more than a year of preparation and planning, Boniface recently helped FMI launch a Savings Program to encourage people in Meheba to put their money into savings.
You’ll find Brigitte working at her tailoring business in the center of Meheba’s largest market, spinning out clothing for the community. Not only is Brigitte skilled on the sewing machine, but she has also put herself through an intensive business skills program in Lusaka which required her to walk more than 10 miles a day to and from class. As her business thrives, more educational opportunities become available to the family.
Apart from their children and jobs, Brigitte and Boniface devote their time to a local Pentecostal congregation in Meheba, where Boniface serves as a Pastor. At the moment, the couple does not know if they will repatriate to Congo should it become peaceful, or if they will try their luck applying for resettlement to a new country. In the meantime, they focus on providing a safe home for their two children within the limited confines of Meheba, where they will wait.