19-year-old Confiance is a typical teenager. She loves music, fashion, selfies and sweets. She is also a refugee. Confiance fled Burundi with her mother and now lives in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in western Uganda. Her family came with very little but Confiance is determined to build a new life and a strong community in the place she now calls home.
I met Confiance when I visited Nakivale in February 2020 as part of an insight trip. Despite only spending a day together, she made a lasting impression on me.
On a bright Wednesday morning we sat down for a chat and a cup of tea. She looked across the table and said, ‘Kelly, do not assume anything about refugees. We have capabilities. We are resourceful. We are ready to start our lives again. We can change our lives in spite of past hardship.’
For many, what’s missing is the opportunity to change their lives. And Confiance is passionate about creating them.
As a financial inclusion officer with Opportunity International, Confiance teaches financial education to groups of refugees in the settlement. She has been delighted with the progress of her students. Since December 2019, her groups have been learning how to budget, manage their money and save some of their income so they have a safety net in hard times. This is the first time many have made plans for their money since arriving in Nakivale. Drawing upon their lives and experiences, Confiance uses the classroom to help her students imagine their financial futures and make plans to achieve them.
Confiance believes that refugees do not need to rely on outside help for their survival. In an uncertain world, self-reliance is the only tool that creates long-term solutions for refugees. For this reason, she encourages her students to start their own businesses.
‘I tell my students that there is no such thing as a small business. It’s the effort you put in. Even the smallest amount of money can be a starting point from which to grow something small into something big. Then they will not need to rely on remittances and aid. They can stand by themselves,’
Confiance’s students are doing just that.
I attended one of her financial education classes where she introduced me to one of her students, a young mother from Congo. This woman started saving a small sum of money each week through careful budgeting. When she reached 100,000 shillings (approximately £20), she bought a batch of charcoal to sell to customers in the market. By reinvesting her profits, she has been able to purchase more stock and grow her business. It’s early days but this extra income is helping to send her children to school as well as ensuring better nutrition for her family.
Confiance's name means 'trusted' in French and it's apt. Her students trust her. What's more, they now trust that, they themselves, can build a more secure future as they rebuild their lives in Uganda.
It’s been several months since I visited Nakivale and the world has changed dramatically. However, a day doesn’t go past without me thinking about Confiance and her final words to me before we parted,
‘I want people to see capability and resourcefulness in refugees here in Nakivale. Many of my peers, as refugees did not see the value of making plans for their money before. Now they see the value of both saving and making plans for their futures. I am serving my community. I want to stop poverty and create independence. ‘
I trust that she will.
Confiance's Financial Inclusion Class
Confiance and I (She insisted!)