For years, Sibomana Aimable measured his future in mere hours.
Life in one refugee camp after another did not afford the slightest cause to adopt an optimistic outlook, or a long-term one.
“The thing I could think of is what is going to happen tomorrow? Will I get something to eat,’’ said Aimable, a 22-year-old student at UPEI.
His life as a refugee was wrought with hardship and heartache.
Aimable was just four years old when he fled in 1994 with his parents and his older sister from a brutal civil war in Rwanda. The family landed in a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The young boy spent four miserable years in the camp.
“The life really was very difficult — difficult to get food or clean water,’’ he said. “I did not know what was going to happen.’’
What happened was both of his parents drowned while trying to cross a river under the hail of bullets fired by soldiers.
Aimable’s much older sister, Rirbetha, suddenly was thrust into the dual role of mother/sibling. The pair spent eight years together in another refugee camp in Tanzania.
Again, life in a refugee camp was very tough. Getting food was a continual challenge. Aimable and his sister would go days at a time without eating.
Aimable would be forced at times to sneak out of the camp to beg for food in the streets of Tanzania.
In 2004, refugees in the camp were told to return to their home country. Rirbetha refused to go back to Rwanda. She was shot dead trying to run away.
Aimable ran away with a group to Malawi, where he would stay in yet another refugee camp.
He was only 14 and staying in the camp by himself. He fetched water and gathered firewood in the forest to earn money to buy basic necessities.
He also hit the books. He performed well in school in the camp earning a pass to attend public school.
Later, the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) would put him on to a path of far greater promise than he would ever have believed possible during a life of so much despair and seemingly devoid of prospect.
Opportunities for refugees to pursue higher education are virtually non-existent, notes WUSC, leaving many bright and talented students unable to achieve their academic or professional goals.
WUSC provides refugee students like Aimable an opportunity to leave a camp and pursue higher education at a Canadian university or college, resettling in Canada as permanent residents.
In September, Aimable began the engineering program at UPEI.
Suddenly, something good was happening in a life previously mired in difficulty and disaster. The fabulous reversal of fortune was hard to believe.
Now he is determined to make the best possible play of his much improved hand.
“I am given a chance,’’ he said. “I will go for it.’’