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Interview for

Deo Ndayisenga


Interviewed By:

Grady Trexler

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 58:44

Deo shares his experience as a refugee in Tanzania, escaping the war in Rwanda, farming with his parents and attending school in the camp. He describes the experience of immigrating to the U.S., learning English, and becoming an accountant - hoping in the future to visit friends and family back in Burundi.

Other Interviews

Other interviews of this person can be found below:

Additional Notes

Narrator: Deo Ndayisenga

Date: July 1, 2020

Location: Via Zoom

Summary: Deo shares his experience as a refugee in Tanzania, escaping the war in Rwanda, farming with his parents and attending school in the camp. He describes the experience of immigrating to the U.S., learning English, and becoming an accountant - hoping in the future to visit friends and family back in Burundi.

Topics: Childhood, Discrimination, Education, Employment, Family, Finances, Future, Immigration Process,  Language, Religion,Religious Practice, Safety, Trauma, Places of worship, Post-war/conflict journey, War


Section 1: (00:04 - 09:02 )

  • Family - Mr. Ndayisenga was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a Congolese mother and a Burundian father.

  • Childhood - For ten years after his third birthday, Mr. Ndayisenga lived in a Tanzanian camp where his parents had moved the family to escape the war between the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda. They built their own house with the help of neighbors on a land allotment that was given to them by the UN.

  • Post-war/conflict journey - After resettling in Tanzania, Mr. Ndayisenga and his family lived in a camp that was supported by the UN. Every once a month, they received free food from the UN - two bags of rice, a bag of beans and a bag of fufu - at a place they named the “free market.” Because he was in a family of six at the time, he remembers them running out of food and having to depend on his parents’ farm.

  • Finances - Just like other refugees in the camp, Mr. Ndayisenga’s parents supported their family through farming. There were no other occupations available.

  • Education - While in the camp, Mr. Ndayisenga and one of his younger brothers attended school.

  • Employment - Mr. Ndayisenga, at the age of twelve, helped his father run his gambling business; specifically, he was in charge of guarding their property.

Section 2: (09:02 - 16:02 )

  • Childhood - When they were not in the camp school, Mr. Ndayisenga and his friends would spend their free time playing soccer, swimming in the lake or just simply roaming around. He emphasizes the lack of resources such as electricity and books, which children like him could have used to study.

  • Post-war/conflict journey - In 2012, the camp Mr. Ndayisenga and his family had lived in was closed after the late, former president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he would welcome back the Burundians who had fled the country for Tanzania to escape the war between the Hutus and Tutsis. However, Mr. Ndayisenga and his family  had already relocated to the state of Virginia in the United States.

  • Discrimination - Mr. Ndayisenga explains that after the Burundians left their camps for their home, Burundi,  following President Nkurunziza’s invitation, they were met with contempt as the Burundians who had never left did not want to share resources.

Section 3: (16:02 -  24:52)

  • Religion - Mr. Ndayisenga recollects how big of a role religion played in the lives of the refugees in his camp. Majority of the refugees were Christians; on Sundays, the camp would be deserted because everyone was at church.

  • Education - The camp school Mr. Ndayisenga attended did not offer meals. Like the rest of the students, he would return home for lunch around noon and then return to school for classes up until the evening

  • Family - On Saturdays, Mr. Ndayisenga would accompany his parents to their farm and help them out.

  • Safety - In his camp, Mr. Ndayisenga did not feel like he could rely on law enforcement; firstly because they were of a different nationality and secondly because they were not readily accessible. He recalls one specific incident where one of his neighbors was murdered and the police took incredibly long to come and intervene.

Section 4: (24:52 - 34:13)

  • Immigration Process - When Mr. Ndayisenga and his family were given an immigration interview, they were ecstatic. However, they had to contain their excitement because they feared that those who did not get chosen would turn their disappointment into violence against them.

  • Immigration Process - Mr. Ndayisenga makes a poignant remark: many refugee parents, including his own, did not know their children’s age because that was the least of their worries. In fact, many failed their immigration interviews due to a lack of this knowledge.

  • Immigration Process - Before their individual interviews, Mr. Ndayisenga, his older brother and his parents daily studied each other’s biographical information so that they would not fail. Once they all passed successfully, they were moved to a new camp from which they would then immigrate to the United States.

Section 5: (34:13 - 49: 12)

  • Immigration Process - In the camp they moved to after passing their interviews, Mr. Ndayisenga and his family were surrounded by other American-bound refugees. He recalls that in this camp, the living conditions were better; they also had to meet certain medical standards in order to leave for America, often receiving vaccinations when they did not.

  • Immigration Process - Mr. Ndayisenga recalls his father being disappointed by the pictures of Virginia their family received. His father feared that it would be another camp.

  • Immigration Process - Mr. Ndayisenga and his family faced some difficulties during their journey to the US. Their first flight, which brought them to Kenya from Tanzania, was remarkably overcrowded. Then they missed their flight from DC to Virginia and had to trust a stranger who offered to house them for the night.

  • Trauma - Mr. Ndayisenga and his family arrived in Virginia a day before his birthday. Since it was still July, some of their neighbors were lighting fireworks and he recollects that his father initially thought that a war was erupting.

  • Language - Mr. Ndayisenga and his family did not speak any English upon their resettlement in the United States. However, after some challenges at school, he and his brother began to learn the language with the help of their “lovely” teachers.

  • Education - Unfortunately, Mr. Ndayisenga was bullied in high school. He remembers once getting suspended for getting into a fight with a student who had tripped him as he ran to catch the bus. He especially enjoyed the English classes for ESL students because he was in the company of other immigrant students who understood his struggle with learning the language.

  • Education - After graduating from high school, Mr. Ndayisenga pursued studies in accounting. As of 2020, he was studying to become a certified public accountant.

Section 6: (49: 12 -  58:39)

  • Religious Practice - The house that Mr. Ndayisenga and his family moved into was right next to a church. Yearning for God one Sunday, the entire family attended a service at the church despite knowing that it was not Catholic - their denomination. As a result, Mr. Ndayisenga’s mother became upset.

  • Places of worship - At an immigration center, Mr. Ndayisenga’s mother expressed to Patricia, the family’s translator, that she wanted to attend a Catholic church. Henceforth, some churchgoers volunteered to offer transportatuon to the family, which had not yet acquired its own vehicle. Mr. Ndayisenga remembers receiving a ton of support from the church.

  • Family - Mr. Ndayisenga has started his own family here in the United States. He first met his wife, a fellow refugee, in high school during an ESL class.

  • Future - Mr. Ndayisenga and his family plan to go back to visit their friends from the camp in Tanzania. However, they will not be convening in the camp because they do not have entry access. Instead, they will meet in Burundi.

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