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Thousands of people are fleeing a horribly violent conflict in Kasai region of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and seeking refuge in neighboring Angola [click here to learn more about the conflict and recent influx of refugees to Angola]. Daniel Kabeya, a 34-year-old assistant professor, is one of those who fled in April. The violence had gotten to be too much. He saw fellow villagers and friends killed and children he taught injured. He fled on foot to Angola, walking for days without food and water. 

But, what met Daniel was not an easy transition. “When we first arrived at the camp, life was very difficult,” says Daniel describing Mussengue reception center in northern Angola. According to UNHCR, 300-500 Congolese refugees arrive to Mussengue and other reception centers on the DRC-Angola border every day. The resources at these centers have are minimal with challenges in consistent access to food and water. In Mussungue, the refugee shelter is an empty warehouse complex.This kind of environment can be terrifying for refugees like Daniel who fled violence and yet have no option to return home.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is doing its best to address the fears and challenges for refugees like Daniel. When the influx of refugees started in March 2017, JRS was the first to call attention to the looming crisis and since then has been filling a critical role in the humanitarian response. JRS provides all kinds of services to from the assembly of tents that refugees use for shelter to psychosocial assistance to those who’ve experienced trauma and violence. 

Education is also a critical service JRS is providing for refugees. Educational settings provide safe and transformative environments for refugee children and youth, and important skills and tools for adults to transition to a new life. Included in the educational services are Portuguese classes, one of which Daniel is currently enrolled. “This helps us better communicate with Angola government authorities and get the proper assistance,” says Daniel. “JRS also teaches us about the constitution of Angola and how to get proper refugee documentations. These lessons make it easy for us understand what the Angola government needs from us and be able to integrate easily.” 

“Education opens up a wolrd of possibilities, in which the young can dream and hope for a better future, and use their skills and abilities to build that future for themselves and their communities,” says Fr. Padre Celestino, Deputy Regional Director of JRS in Angola. Daniel is grateful for all the lifesaving assistance JRS and other humanitarian organizations are providing in the camp, but admits that his life is in limbo and desperately waits for a long-term solution to his future. Daniel doesn’t see any hope of going back to his country as the conflict intensifies, but he looks forward for more education to improve his teaching skills and find a better life in Angola.

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