Even now, after 11 years, I still get a lot of questions of which refugee camp I lived in first when I arrive in Netherlands. My reply is always none. Love brought me in Netherlands. Although I did not come as a refugee, it does not mean that I have no idea how it feels. Trust me being refugee in your own country is even harder than crossing a border!
De nacht van de Vluchteling (The night of the refugee) was yesterday night, 16-17 June, and it was an unforgettable experience for me. I walked 20 km that night for the first time in my life. I had been training up to 15 km. It was a big challenge. Many people walk in group as I was walking alone in the night, it made me think back to that Night in 1993 when civil war started in Burundi. We had to run from my village Murira, hiding between the trees. We slept in the bush for 2 nights, then we finally made it to the centre of Gihanga where we could be protected by Soldiers. That is the day I finally realized the hate between Hutu and Tutsi. As my parents raised me to be a Burundian citizen they never though that one day this war will crash! Love had won their heart as they did not educate me with a hate for different ethnic groups. And still in our family we are mixed. It were very painful nights, I did not know how the future for me would look like. Yesterday I saw in my thoughts the light from people searching us in Bush and singing the song ”Tinga ababaya no mu bido” which means search the bad people, even in Bush.
Right that moment I heard singing in a group in front of me, it was not my Kirundi language, it was Persian from Iran. I joined this group of Iranian refugees as it was very cheerful. They explained the meaning of the song we were singing: “It was about a father who said goodbye to his daughter in the night before he joined Heaven“. The song is 60 years old and in Iran it is very well known. They asked me to teach them an African song. I taught them “Amahoro meza “ which means Good peace, as we both want peace in this World, especially in our countries.
We took our first break at 10 km where they put our stamp. We share food (Iranian and Dutch snacks). We continue to the finish. While walking one girl asked me why I am wearing a t-shirt written HIV POSITIVE. I responded that I like to sympathize with Refugees who have HIV. She asked why do you that? I answered that I am myself HIV positive. It has been a hard time to talk about this with the people I love. I know that it is a big taboo in may countries and many PLHIV are very isolated because they have no one to talk to. I imagine a life of a refugee in a camp where you are dealing with war trauma and still on top deal with HIV. That is a big burden! People who are not in a camp already still have difficulties to talk about it or seek help, Refugees with HIV need to be helped as well. Even the one without need to have information. A lot happens in refugees camps at least in Africa where women and girls are very vulnerable and have a big chance to get sexually assaulted during their exile. In a camp they built up a lot trauma and finally to hear they have HIV, that is devastating news! So I wanted them to know they are not alone!
She asked many questions relating to HIV infection, how it spread and how come I did not give it to my children. She had never done a HIV test and she has been having a lot of sex without condom so she was scared. So I advised her to do HIV test, if she test positive she takes medication and will live a health life. I explained U=U, Undetectable equals Untransmittable, a message that gives confidence to an HIV positive person. She does not need to worry about future dating but more important for her is to know the HIV status of her future partner. She was very convinced to do the right thing in order to plan her future without fear! I realized that I have two prices: winning by finishing my 20km walk , and informing and empowering another citizen of the World!
I cannot forget to thank all people who believed in me and donated for this walk, we did it together. Thanks to all Nacht van de vluchteling walkers, we raised 1.6 millions euro together that will be well spent to help all many of the 65 million refugees in need!