Hombeline, from humanitarian worker to a refugee

16 April 2024|Rosette Komuhangi

Related: Advocacy, Uganda

Every last weekend of the month, I would leave Masisi village and travel to Minova, where my sister lived with our siblings and her family. This was a JRS Congo practice for all staff who worked in remote areas: to leave their workplaces for recuperation because of the hard conditions in the internally displaced bases. 

While I was at my sister’s place, unknown gunmen wearing military uniforms attacked her family, killing her husband, and we all had to flee to safety.  

Hombeline Bahati Ndamwira is a Congolese refugee who has lived in Uganda since 2017. Before the tragic weekend, Hombeline was the head of the Livelihood section of JRS in Masisi, Congo. Her life was as ordinary as any humanitarian worker’s may be. 

In what felt like a split second, life took a turn— a scary turn!
Hombeline Bahati

The flight to Uganda was traumatic because of the difficulties they encountered. She fled with her sister, her sister’s children, and her siblings, resulting in many fleeing. It was difficult to make good time during the journey because some travellers were young and needed care they couldn’t provide. Their priority was to escape danger quickly, but Hombeline worries about the lasting trauma these children may face. 

Upon arriving in Uganda, she encountered several challenges. To receive the necessary support designated for refugees and asylum seekers, they had to move from settlement to settlement to register. This, with the little ones, was a nightmare she shared. Additionally, finding suitable accommodation proved a significant obstacle due to the many people in her group. 

The JRS office in Masisi became aware of Hombeline’s unfortunate situation and contacted JRS Uganda management to support her and her relatives. JRS supported them in the best way they could. In addition, because Hombeline has experience in project management, the late Fr. Frido, who was JRS Country Director at the time, offered her the role of M&E Officer. This offer was a much-needed relief and a miracle of a kind. 

In her own words…  

Although my life took a drastic turn, and I questioned why things had to be so difficult, working with JRS Uganda, despite my language barrier, has provided me with many opportunities to improve my economic situation and ease my pain. I am particularly grateful to Christina, the current Country Director, who patiently guided me when language hindered my work.

Most importantly, it has taught me to appreciate the miracle of every day. Through my work, I have empathized with those I once served and advocated for the marginalized with a deeper understanding of their struggles. This experience has shown me that maybe I was born to advocate for those in need, and I am grateful for the chance to walk their journey and speak from a place of knowledge.

She says life is unpredictable, and anyone can become displaced anytime. Whereas many have typically been displaced by war or internal conflict, hers is a case of being in the right place at the wrong time. However, she also believes that there are no coincidences in life; her sister needed Hombeline the most during the refugee journey but would probably not have been available had it not been for the horrific event. This alone keeps her hope alive to keep pressing on when sometimes life becomes unclear. 

Hombeline is hopeful that she will have more opportunities to serve marginalized individuals. She also hopes to understand why God allows certain things to happen.  

She is content with her current role as Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) Officer at JRS and enjoys raring rabbits. She dreams of turning her rabbit keeping into a project that can raise income for educating those in need because she believes that investing in education is investing in life and for life.