Thanks to ECHO support, young refugee Mazimpaka Pascal left negative coping mechanisms to join the volleyball team in Mugombwa thanks to youth protection programmes.
“We heard a lot noise and gunshots. My mom told me that we had to go to evade shelling,” Pascal recalls. “That is the beginning of my refugee story.”
The 18-year-old Congolese refugee remembers his mother taking him and his sister to Rwanda. They were only able to make their log and difficult journey most of time from sunset to sunrise to avoid being spotted.
Like millions of forcibly displaced children, Pascal was affected by his family movement.
“Being scared was a permanent state of mind. I felt like I was lost, and I was always scared,” said Pascal. “After few years, I started drinking too much and using illicit drugs. I didn’t care about my life.”
Pascal’s mother said sports have changed her son’s behaviours. © UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana
Pascal's life changed back then when he joined the volleyball team. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana
Thanks to sports, Pascal is able again to have hopes in his future. He now dreams to become a doctor or a volleyball player at the national level. © UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana
Pascal’s mother, Mukazerwa Esperance was despairing seeing her boy’s conduct deteriorating.
“I did what I could but in vain. I couldn’t even chew something. All my time was spent in educating him,” she said.
Sports participation play an important and positive role in the health and development of children and youth. In Mugombwa refugee camp, UNHCR uses sports among other activities to provide protection with refugee youth, with thanks to support from the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG-ECHO).
Pascal was asked to join the team at the volleyball pitch after a few sessions on the ‘detrimental effect of drugs on youth lives’ conducted by UNHCR partner, Plan International, in Mugombwa refugee camp in the southern province of Rwanda.
“I must admit it, this was my best moment in my life. It was indeed a sort of rehab” he said.
Pascal’s life changed back then when he joined the volleyball team. He began enjoying lunch with his family and every morning he attended volleyball training. Esperance said that the game [volleyball] itself is interesting because it implies that children are direct and open-minded.
“They learn a lot and didn’t become fatalistic about the possibility of redress or change,” she said.
Thanks to sports, Pascal is able again to have hopes in his future. He now dreams to become a doctor or a volleyball player at the national level.
“I learned that as youth, being a refugee should not be a barrier and scare us at all. We must focus on our studies and sports, for our own sake and for the future of our families,” he said.
DG-ECHO contribution to UNHCR helps in providing international protection in the areas of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), child protection, registration, supporting persons with disabilities, access to legal assistance, access to documentation and legal status.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep many livelihoods’ activities, schools and social activities in the refugee camps closed. This led to increased frustration and negative coping mechanism among refugees especially children and youth. Thanks to its partners, UNHCR continues to enhance refugee protection offering them a safe environment where they can enjoy their rights and build a better future.