REFUNITE’s community network building project is tackling is how to reach offline, illiterate, and disenfranchised refugee populations with life-enhancing information. Women, elderly, and other vulnerable groups are often hard to reach with messages and information that could transform their lives. REFUNITE’s community network building project sets out to change this imbalance. In the Democratic Republic … Continue reading “We can tell them there is hope as long as REFUNITE can enable them to search for their families”
REFUNITE’s community network building project is tackling is how to reach offline, illiterate, and disenfranchised refugee populations with life-enhancing information. Women, elderly, and other vulnerable groups are often hard to reach with messages and information that could transform their lives. REFUNITE’s community network building project sets out to change this imbalance.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a community leader is someone with high status within a local society. The population looks up to their leader and consults with him or her to get solutions to their problems of any kind: conflicts, health, marriage, education, finances, and even spiritual challenges. Marcellin Biriko is one of them.
Marcellin Biriko is a community leader with over 7,000 constituents. He lives in Goma,the capital city of North Kivu province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu. Marcellin became a part of REFUNITE’s community leader network, he has spread the word about REFUNITE within his community and his region as a whole.
In April 2018, REFUNITE got contacted by another community leader in Uganda with information about a new refugee flow from DRC that had hit Kyangwali settlement. People were fleeing an ethnic conflict between the Hema and the Lendu tribes in Ituri, North Kivu (in the DRC). More than 10,000 people crossed Lake Albert to seek asylum in Uganda. Immediately, REFUNITE shared this information with all community leaders living in the region and that were part of the REFUNITE community leader network. Marcellin Biriko was one of them. A few months later, when the conflict stopped, the negative impact was evident: scattered families, countless separated and unaccompanied children and orphans that were left behind.
REFUNITE shared this information with UNHCR and ICRC in order to allow these agencies to react fast on these new displacements and provide support to the IDPs and refugees while fleeing. While crossing, especially through the lakes, many people use any type of transportation to get to the other side and end up drowning.
Driven by a plight to his community, Biriko decided to do something about the consequences of displacement when it comes to family separation. Marcellin Biriko has organized several public meetings in Goma to raise awareness about REFUNITE. He has sponsored 10 trainings on family tracing using REFUNITE’s platform, gathering over 70 other community leaders. Now, these new engaged community leaders are spreading the information about REFUNITE’s community leader network and family tracing platform to their own people, in their respective villages of Karuba, Bweremana and Matanda.
On how REFUNITE’s community network building has changed his life, Marcellin Biriko says: ”I know how it feels to lose contact with family members and friends. I saw people organizing funerals without corpses, using just a photo, when the M23 rebels took control of Goma in 2012. I was there. When you don’t know the whereabouts of your relatives, you’re like a walking dead because you don’t know if a part of you has died in the war, or maybe it’s injured and helpless somewhere, or even well and alive in a safe place. It’s an unbearable feeling. We didn’t know about REFUNITE at that time, but now we do. That’s why I’m asking leaders to help other communities. This way, we can tell them there is hope as long as REFUNITE can enable them to search for their families“.