Olivia Habonimana: A young refugee girl from Burundi

Destined for greatness. Picture: O. Habonimana

Destined for greatness. Picture: O. Habonimana

I was born in a refugee camp in the forests of Burundi. Becoming victims of genocide, my parents died when I was only 12 months. It then became my grandma’s responsibility to look after me,   and when she later passed on my aunt that I live with now took it upon herself to look after me. I have never seen an image of them, nor knew what they were like, there’s absolutely no trace of their existence except through me. It’s a yearning feeling that haunts me for as long as I shall live but it’s one I have to accept and live with.

Being a refugee was not a choice I made, it is the choice that was made for me by the circumstances and events that took place at birth and it is for that reason I refuse to sit and feel sorry for myself as if I have no say in what my tomorrow becomes. Surprisingly, I am proud of who I am, I say this because it’s that which I have become today that my past has molded me to become.

At my age, l have achieved so much and more is still to come. I represented South Africa last year (as the only foreigner in my team) in the Netherlands at the International Moot Court Competition, being on a team that came second in the world. Also, I recently participated at the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in Ethiopia. With the determination l have for changing my life and those around me and the exposure l have gained, so many opportunities have opened.

1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at UNHCR.org