“I left Rwanda with my family when I was 7 because of the war. My dad was killed during the Genocide. I have spent 12 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) living in tents in camps. My brothers found temporary jobs and could buy some food for us. It wasn’t a life– it was survival. To be raised by your brothers, who are almost the same age as you– it is hard.
I remember sometimes my brother would take me to the Red Cross and they would give us biscuits. This is one of the only good memories I have from there. We would spend days without any food. One of my brothers died from diarrhea there.
When we decided to come back, we crossed to Rwanda and were received by the military. They gave us tea and food. I remember I was so hungry and I ate so much that later I had a stomach ache. Back in Rwanda, I met Hitimana, an older mechanic in the neighborhood. I was so fascinated by him and his job. I later had the chance to study mechanics through IOM’s 'Sustainable Return & Reintegration Programme' for young returnees like me and I also received a toolbox as part of a start-up business kit. Now, I run my own mechanic shop where I fix motorbikes and sell engines and other parts. Whenever I have any doubts I look to Hitimana for advice. Now he is old and doesn’t work, but he is full of knowledge.”
The 'Sustainable Return & Reintegration Programme' assisted 77 returnees, most of them living in DRC, with professional training. Damacen is one of the beneficiaries of the project and completed the 6-month training in 2012.
Today, Damacen has a wife and 2 kids, and as a successful mechanic and shop owner for the past few years, he is able to take care of his family and community.
photo credit: IOM/Amanda nero