A home from home

Even though I’ve spent most of my life in England, I still think
lots about Burundi in Africa, because it’s where I was born. A lot
of people think that I’ve forgotten about Burundi because I was
only four when I left. But I always tell them, I may have been
small but there’s things I’ll always remember.

Burundi was once a peaceful place but it turned into a battlefield
– that’s why we left. I was very happy before war broke out between
the Tutsi and Hutu people. I was part of a very big family with
lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. But many of them, children and
grown-ups, were killed in the fighting.

When my mother and I left Burundi, we travelled on a bus for eight
hours to Uganda. It was so tiring and all we had to eat was two
slices of bread. We were in Uganda for only a short time before
moving on to Kenya, where we stayed for a few months. It was when
we were in Kenya that my mother took me to the airport and told me
we were going to catch a plane. I didn’t even know which country
we’d end up in. It wasn’t until we landed that I found out we were
in England.

It was December, right in the middle of winter and, coming from
Africa where I’d never felt cold, I was freezing. I remember being
excited when I tried on a pair of gloves because I’d never worn
them before.

The first few weeks of my new life in England were spent in a hotel
somewhere outside London in a town I don’t even know the name of.
It wasn’t until later that we were sent to a hotel for refugee
families in Finsbury Park, London. There were lots of people at the
hotel from all over the world – people from China, India, Brazil
and Africa. I couldn’t speak English but it didn’t take me long to
pick up things like how to say “Hello”. My mum knew only three
words – “No English” and “Sorry”.

Even though you hear stories about how horrible it is for some
families living in hotels, my experiences were good ones. I liked
the hotel in Finsbury Park because there were other children to
play with and they shared their toys with me.

I was also happy that my mum had met another woman from Burundi
because it meant she had someone to talk to in our own language and
she wouldn’t be lonely.

I’m 11 now, and in some ways I think of London as “home”. I’ve made
loads of friends and I’m just as proud to support the England
football team as anyone born here. Sometimes I miss Burundi but
some of my family are still there and I know when I grow up, I’ll
go back and visit them. Maybe one day I’ll even be able to buy a
house there.

Every week hundreds of families come to England to escape war. Now
and then you read bad things about them in the papers and sometimes
people say they have no right to be in this country. But I was once
in the same situation and I know what it feels like. I also know
that, like me, they deserve to be here just as much as

Children’s Express is a programme of learning through
journalism for young people aged eight to 18.


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