Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

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Meet Mireille: Beyond the Crisis, Education in a Refugee Context

The JFRC community welcomed Dr. Mireille Twayigira, a former Rwandan refugee and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) education advocate to campus on Tuesday, October 30, 2018. Dr. Twayigira shared her experiences and highlighted the importance of refugee access to education. Read librarian Anne Wittrick's reflection to Mireille's powerful story.

"Imagine being a stateless refugee in Malawi and winning a scholarship to study medicine in China! You’d be excited right? Then you find out you can’t leave the country because you do not have a passport. When you get to China, you discover you have to learn Mandarin to have any hope of becoming a doctor. Mireille Twayigira’s story makes doing study abroad in Rome look like a walk in the park! In fact one of our professors came away thinking she does not push her students enough.

The licensed medical doctor captivated students, faculty and guests alike at the annual Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)/John Felice Rome Center (JFRC) event in October. Her father was killed in Rwanda during the genocide. At two years old, she escaped with her school teacher mother and other members of her family. She walked, often barefoot and hungry, across the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Mozambique losing one relative after the other to malaria and starvation before reaching safety in the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi with only her Grandfather. He died soon afterwards but she managed to keep going thanks to the JRS, which provided her with an education that led her from a scholarship in an excellent Secondary School to qualification as a doctor in China and back to Malawi for her clinical training! Not even that was easy because she had to adapt what she had studied to local circumstances.

Mireille’s story shows how school attendance is vital to the empowerment of refugees across the world. By helping them reach their full potential through education, the JRS hopes to protect human rights and make a long-term investment in a more peaceful and prosperous future. Mireille’s success surely convinces you that this is the way forward."