He Brought Refugees AS WELL AS A Soccer Ball
Enlarge this graphic toggle caption Josh Loock/NPR Josh Loock/NPR
Robert Hakiza remembers going to his uncle’s house, finding his sandal primary and then his bloodstained physique heaped on the floor.
Uncle Boniface have been an anthropology professor who also lectured at universities in the eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo and across the border in Rwanda. He previously taught Hakiza, then a teenager, to love school in their Congolese city of Bukavu. But political turmoil and ethnic tensions had been on the rise. 1 day in 1996, rebels killed Boniface because, Hakiza says, he seemed Rwandan. They assumed he was a spy.
The following year, President Mobutu Sese Seko was ousted and a brutal war that involved multiple African countries ensued. Lifestyle became so hazardous that Hakiza’s parents told him he should stop likely to school. He chose to honor his uncle by continuing his analyses, earning a level in agriculture from the Catholic University of Bukavu before fleeing along with his family in 2008.
His dad, a mechanic who fixed cars for the Rwanda-supported regime which had since taken control of their area, learned that he previously been placed on a list of people to be killed. “We decided to leave to save our lives,” Hakiza says.
Yet even in Uganda, living in a little apartment with exiled neighbors, Hakiza saw how refugees carried their enmity for several nationalities and tribes around state lines.
Those tensions weren’t always in Congo. Hakiza remembers that whenever he was 6 or 7 and kicking around a soccer ball, everybody played together and nobody cared about what made them several. “I can’t really declare that I was proficient at it,” Hakiza says of the activity. But years after, it took on different meaning for him.
Hakiza decided to begin a soccer tournament with refugees in the Kampala community. “We wanted to try to make the same situation as before, as it used to be before the war” – people playing together irrespective of their identities. Congolese, Rwandans, Burundians and Somalis registered, forming eight teams.
The tournament occurred in April 2008 and drew such a positive reception that Hakiza founded the Young African Refugees for Integral Creation (YARID) with friends after that year. At first, the founders merely tried to get people to play soccer along. If they needed money, participants would pitch directly into help buy supplies. A single team composed of varied nationalities ultimately formed and began competing in a soccer league.
Today, YARID’s programs include sports for production, job preparation and placement, and a center for technology and creativity. The idea for a few offerings, like English classes, formed after soccer game titles as players explained their language barriers.
In 2016, the organization received a $100,000 Ockenden Prize for a program that teaches women self-sufficiency. It includes women vocational training and gender-based violence recognition classes. Hakiza, YARID’s executive director, says the organization has provided help to 3,500 refugees.
The 33-year-old in addition has interned at the US Food and Agriculture Corporation and worked as an assistant researcher in Uganda with the University of Oxford.
He was chosen to speak at a Moth storytelling event in Washington within the Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellowship. “Robert’s is a quieter voice. He hardly ever seeks the spotlight, and I really believe it is exactly those voices that should be been told,” says Rachael Strecher, the fellowship program supervisor who helped select him.
From a hotel in Virginia, Hakiza told NPR about the down sides he faced in Congo and how soccer helped unite a fractured refugee community in Uganda. This interview possesses been edited for duration and clarity.
That which was Bukavu like before you fled?
It’s a little city near Rwanda. We grew up with so many people from Rwanda at that time, we did not even know they were from Rwanda. We’d people from several cultures and tribes.
I remember especially when the problem was getting worse, music was one of the things that people could use to system themselves to forget what was taking place. The majority of the music are in Lingala, a local language which is partially spoken in the Western part of Congo.
What did you aspire to maintain those younger days?
When I was at secondary college, I needed to be lawyer. But this changed when I was going to finish secondary college. I started growing the thought of doing agriculture. There was a perception, whenever people discussed agriculture, that it intended you’re spending the majority of your time digging – they couldn’t always look at it as science.
You said in your Moth storyline that you faced obstacles in attending secondary college in Congo.
Persons my age, we stayed home for a complete year. The teachers didn’t teach because they were not paid. Likewise I recall there was a period when we were trapped at school, for I think almost three days, because people had been fighting outside with guns. They merely put us in a single hall within the institution. You could get food just once a working day, something very small to sustain us.
When you arrived in Uganda, how did the tensions around refugee communities manifest?
The tension I discuss, it was a really cold one. It was very difficult to look for a Congolese together with a Rwandan or a Burundian. The Congolese were within one place, and the Burundians had been on the other side. And whenever you talked to the Congolese, they didn’t need to hear about Rwandans – searching at the position Rwanda performed when the battle started.
Why did you feel that soccer, a competitive sport, would unite people?
Soccer creates that spirit of group. It’s very difficult to look for a team that is made up of individuals of only one tribe. More often than not it’s people via different tribes, even several nationalities. Though we’ve two sides, at least if you are in a group you have a number of people who are fighting for the same aim. They become one. That’s the most crucial thing.
Can you talk about a refugee that your company, YARID, has helped?
toggle caption Robert Hakiza/Yarid
After half a year in Uganda, I started teaching English. In my school, we had a lady likewise from Congo. She was merely there physically. Sometimes you could look at her crying, see the tears moving on her cheek.
Back Congo, her husband was killed simply a week soon after their wedding. One evening, these rebels found their home, they killed her spouse and they raped her and also a cousin who was staying there.
When she completed the English school, that is when we had come up with another software to empower women so that they could begin coming up with activities to earn an income. We’d sewing machines and also a trainer.
I took the lady to join the class. There was a volunteer who originated from America who was touched by her storyline and who helped her out with a sewing equipment. She started making garments, and she handled to begin getting some money.
The money helped her to hire a two-room house. And she were able to send out for the cousin – the main one who was raped – and she began to go to college. At this time she got married to some other man and she’s very happy.
Just thinking. Do you still play soccer?
At least every Saturday morning hours. I can’t stop.
Sasha Ingber is a multimedia journalist who has covered science, lifestyle and foreign affairs for such publications as National Geographic, The Washington Content Magazine and Smithsonian. Contact her at @SashaIngber