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Big dreams for Congolese journalist who came to Zimbabwe as a refugee

Chen Williams

An aspiring Congolese upcoming journalist, Barthelemy Mwanza, has come a long way from being a refugee who left the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) due to a tribal war, to being an active advocate for the youth and a great participant in several organisations.

Barthelemy arrived in Zimbabwe along with his sister in 2012 under the Department of Social Development (DSD), and lived in Tongogara refugee camp for nearly 5 years.

According to him, life in the camp for them was quite hard as they had to supplement and manage food given to them which was equivalent to US$13 per month. He also had to stop and forget about education, and with DRC being a French country, it took time and difficulty to adapt to the new languages in Zimbabwe, mainly English and Shona.

“I faced many challenges for me to start working on my vision. I have different visions and so when I arrived at the camp I could not continue with my education because it took me a while to get proper documentation and I did not have opportunities. I really wanted to be an international journalist, and so I had no choice from where to continue.

“In DRC it’s a French country but in Zimbabwe it’s an English country and so at first for me to collaborate with stakeholders or the natives it was difficulty.

“As for the food, it wasn’t really enough as we were receiving US$13 per month so things were quite difficult,” he said during an interview with Zimbabwe Voice on Tuesday.

Being someone who is very interested in youth activities and journalism, Barthelemy and his friend did their first conference in the camp under a youth group they had joined.

The conference was titled ‘Life of refugees in the camp’ where they had participants who represented different areas in the camp such as HIV and Health, Crime and Behaviour, Food and Water Supply, among others.

Barthelemy said that the conference was really successful and made a name for him. It also opened doors for him leading to travel to different places including Geneva, South Africa, and New York.

“My friend and I wanted to start a youth program but there was one already called youth mobilisers. We were referred to one of the persons and they assigned us to come up with an activity. That is when I did my first conference in the camp titled ‘Life of refugees in the camp’. We invited people from the offices and the youth to participate.

“The conference went perfectly well and so that is how I marked my name. As I progressed a lot of people were discouraging me but I continued to do my voluntary work,” he narrated.

Despite the negative energy he received he did not give up his work in volunteering.
Through his advocacy work in South Africa, he managed to capture the interest of a sponsor who offered him a scholarship that covered his rentals, food and education.

Barthelemy has been doing voluntary work since 2014. He coordinated different projects under the Youth Initiative Fund namely Youth Mobilizers, Youth Mental Health Promoters, Junior Farmer Field and he worked with TDH as a Case Care Worker before he came the prominent youth leader.

Currently Barthelemy is Co-chair of UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council, where he presents certain aspects or topics on several platforms and he does wish to continue to progress into assisting the youth through his own organisations one day and he is working with UNHCR Harare as the protection monitor assisting ton refer refugees to UNHCR and other implementing partners during this era of the deadly pandemic.

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