“I wonder what would have happened, if I’d never found Kepler. Perhaps my son would have grown up in the same conditions that I did, eating only once per day,” Gentille Dusenge ponders. She starkly remembers walking to school with cold bare feet each morning as a child, often on an empty stomach.
Gentille graduated from Kepler in September 2020. She now works as a Community-based Protection Intern at the UNHCR. But the journey here was long, especially considering her refugee status.
“Before attending Kepler, I was selected as an outstanding student and received a government scholarship, which fell through due to my refugee status. That was in 2012, and I had to wait five years before my next chance.”
“I had already given up on my dreams, after getting married. I thought there would be no other chance, this is simply what life had in store, so I’d get married and choose a new path. But a month later, Kepler announced new admissions.”
“You see,” Gentille continues, “with Kepler, my refugee status didn’t matter. They just considered my commitment and performance. They believed in refugees. My dreams were reborn.”
For Gentille, an education was the ticket to a better life. Her dad, she explains, always placed faith and responsibility in her as the first-born of seven, both in caring for the family and doing well in school. “I felt like my family was on my shoulders. I wanted to restore their dignity, and I could do that through education.” A degree, she adds, was a way to both move her family out of the camp while also “giving back to vulnerable communities like mine.”
“The very first thing I gained from Kepler was confidence. Now, I’m able to express myself and say ‘no.’ I used to feel like the smallest thing in the world, but with Kepler, I realized that I’m someone too, and I can let people know what I’m feeling. In terms of skills, I improved in writing and technology, especially typing.”
Gentille’s introduction to Kepler started at Iteme, a bridge program for secondary graduates that connects program participants to scholarships and prepares them for higher education. The program particularly targets girls and women. “I started to take the lead, and it’s like my eyes were opened. I could understand the world, myself, and others better, and that grew my confidence. We discussed sensitive topics like gender balance and responsibility sharing during public speaking. The main goal was to help girls express themselves, but it also added to my confidence.”
A few years later, Gentille graduated as a successful student of Healthcare Management with a concentration in Global Perspectives. She’s living out her long-time goal to serve in the humanitarian sector, primarily working with youth from Rwandan refugee camps. “Refugees have always needed to wait for external support,” she expounds. “But we want them to play an active role, and support their initiatives. We sit together, so they can bring up what’s on their minds, and so that we know how to best support refugee youth.” Investing in refugee success, she reminds us, is an investment in the host country’s own development.
Five years from now, Gentille expects she’ll be stable, and able to fully provide for her family, completely independent. “And I’ll still be in a humanitarian setting. Maybe I’ll even have my own project to support women and surrounding neighbors who were not as lucky to attend school.”
“Without humanitarian support, my family and all my loved ones would never have survived. So, I feel like I have to do this for future generations and communities. Not just my own, but throughout the world. I’m a survivor, and I want to help other survivors. That’s why I went to school.”