I procrastinated for a long time before writing this blog. Not because I don’t have anything to say, and not because I don’t want to write about our January YOM, but because she is truly one of the most amazing people I have ever met, and I’m more than a little worried that my writing won’t do her justice.
Joselyne John was born in Burundi, but she was only six years old when civil war came to her small village, and her family was forced to flee, on foot, to the neighbouring country of Tanzania. She lived here for a short period of time before the government expelled refugees, including Joselyne and her family, and she relocated to the Dzalenka Refugee Camp in Malawi, where Joselyne lived for five years.
She finds it hard to explain the conditions of the camp to somebody like me, who has grown up in Canada. “It was rough and difficult beyond imagination,” she describes. Her and her family lived like prisoners, legally forbidden from leaving the camp, even to attend school or work.
Through these conditions, Joselyne emerged as a hardworking and intelligent student. Amazingly, she won a scholarship to study in Vancouver. After a year of preparation and English lessons, she began her life as a Simon Fraser University Student.
Comparing life in Canada to in Malawi, Joselyne says, “At first I thought Canada was a very rich country; that people live happily here and nobody has problems – that people have a really good life. But [I realized] just like anywhere in the world there are all types of problems,” She pauses, before adding, “But there are more opportunities to deal with them here than in the camp.”
As a Health Sciences student, Joselyne is able to enjoy these opportunities, but she dreams of her family members one day joining her. To accomplish this, she has started The Dzalenka Project, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about refugees, improving the conditions in Dzalenka, and raising an ambitious $30,000 to bring Joselyne’s family to Canada.
Through the Dzalenka project, Joselyne and other volunteers hold events to raise awareness and money. They also accept donations and are able to give tax receipts to any donors. They are constantly looking for more volunteers or donations.
Beyond her strength in the early half of her life, and her incredible compassion and determination in recent years, Joselyne is one of the most smiling, friendly people I have ever met. She has a kind of optimism and appreciation for life that I truly admire. She values her education in a way that makes me feel lucky to be attending school every day. Her story is a true inspiration.
For more information on the Dzalenka Project, please visit http://dzaleka.org/. If you have any questions or comments, or would like to volunteer or donate to the Dzalenka Project, please contact Joselyne at firstname.lastname@example.org.