Samuel, a 24-year old Dzaleka resident from Burundi, has encountered a diverse population in his time living at the camp. Inspired by those experiences, he’s helping to create a more unified world around him.
Samuel arrived at Dzaleka with his brother and sister at a young age. His sister eventually married and moved with her husband to settle in the United States.
He and his brother sought asylum in the U.S. too, but their applications were rejected and the brothers were forced to return to Dzaleka. Soon after, however, Sam’s brother married a Canadian woman and moved with her to Canada.
Since his siblings moved away, Samuel has lived with a group of friends who serve as a second family, helping him feel protected in his day-to-day life. Being around like-minded people who want to shape a better world brings him peace of mind, he said.
“I am happy when I have my friends on my side,” Samuel said.
When he’s not conversing with his loved ones, Samuel enjoys playing soccer (or football, if you’re living in Dzaleka). With 11 years of experience in the sport, Samuel said he was a natural choice for captain of the camp’s team.
Samuel finished his secondary schooling in 2017, eight years after completing primary school. He hopes to use that education to become a social worker, as he sees the profession as a way to spread a message of personal growth through introspection.
That’s an important idea in Dzaleka, where some residents turn to drug use as they struggle to cope with the “hostile conditions” of the camp, Samuel said. He believes residents who struggle with addiction can see the value of being proactive if they work hard to overcome that struggle.
It’s a realization that can bring them closer to their dreams, he said.
With refugees from his home nation, Ethiopia, Somalia and more, Dzaleka’s diversity has also impacted Samuel’s life goals. He sees his neighbors as a bridge between the vastly different cultures of Africa and the world at large.
Sam finds peace in simple conversations with his neighbors, as they help him recognize how easy it can be to overcome the unnecessary boundaries created by cultural differences.
Much like conversation, Samuel said music has a similar connective power.
He loves to dance to Michael Jackson’s hit songs like “Beat It” and “Thriller” — as do many others in the camp. Most residents recognize Michael Jackson’s name, and Samuel is happy to see the far reaches of the King of Pop’s legacy from the U.S. all the way to Dzaleka.
Samuel said he is happy to tell his story to an American audience, as it is his dream to connect with people from all across the world.
“I am happy that I am communicating with someone from the U.S.A.,” Samuel said. “Today will be the [best] day.”