In 2015, when the political conflict in Burundi hit its peak, the insecurities meant that young men who were above the age of 18 were not safe. Marina, a Congolese refugee, had 4 children and they were all urban refugees in Bujumbura. At the time Marina’s eldest sons, Joe and Eduard, were 25 and 23 years old respectively. Despite being granted refugee status, the young men’s lives were threatened so they decided to run away along with other Burundian young men. They left the country through Tanzania and lost contact with each other, only to reunite in Kenya in August 2015. They moved from one city to another looking for a means of survival until they reached Nairobi – with no hope of finding their family again.
In March 2019, Marina and her two youngest children were resettled to the USA. She decided to share her story with the agency that had facilitated their resettlement, hoping to find out where her missing sons could be. She suspected that Eduard could be in Kenya and Joe in Burundi. Immediately the agency got in touch with REFUNITE, which in turn used the powerful Community Leaders Network to help search for the missing sons.
REFUNITE’s Community Leader Network is a chain of more than 5300 tribal community leaders spread across 100 refugee communities worldwide, who REFUNITE works with to mobilize and communicate with last-mile populations. Using online and offline channels and the power of this community-based peer to peer network, REFUNITE is able to reach more than 4.6 million people with information.
Thankfully, the well-structured Banyamulenge community is a part this network, and one of the leaders in this community contacted our Call Centre team to let us know that both young men had been found and were together in Nairobi. They had no idea that their mother and siblings were still alive and looking for them.
Finally, after four years, Marina could hear Joe’s and Eduard’s voices on the phone. The emotions overcame her and she cried so much that she could not talk. Their younger sister and brother were also happy to finally hear the voices of their long-lost siblings.
“When I got the call from REFUNITE telling me they found my boys, I couldn’t stop crying. I think I didn’t even sleep for days until I heard their voices on the phone”, said Marina.