THE discovery that his two sisters are alive in Africa means the world to young refugee Axel Dushime.
The Year 12 St James College, Spring Hill student recently received confirmation that his sisters – Nadine, 22, and Palfait, 16, survived after his family was separated fleeing to Kenya from war-torn Burundi five years ago.
“I believed one day I would find them,” Axel said.
Like most final year students, Axel has busied himself studying and dreaming of the future, but he has also spent his time hoping for a miraculous family reunion.
It has meant so much to him, after suffering the hardships of conflict and displacement, before arriving in Australia.
Trawling through social media, he noticed a message from Africa asking if anyone knew the family of two young women by the names of Nadine and Palfait.
“I knew it had to be them,” he said, and soon after he was able to speak on the phone to his sisters, living in poor conditions in Kenya, but now safely with an aunt there.
“I have already started applying for visa to allow them to come to Australia.”
Axel’s joyous news comes as Australia celebrates Refugee Week from June 14 to 20.
Refugee Week is Australia’s peak annual activity to inform the public about refugees and celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society.
For Axel, childhood was cut short by war.
He witnessed his father and brother shot dead during the spiteful conflict between Burundi’s Hutu and Tutsi tribesmen.
He escaped with his mother to Kenya, in a forced movement of people across the border, hiding in forests, and without food and shelter.
During the chaos, his mother suffered terribly at the hands of tribal soldiers, causing her sickness and trauma.
In Kenya, Axel said he would wake up at 5am to go to the market to carry the heavy things for his mother, which still caused him back pain.
“I lost hope in my future. I wanted to focus on my studies, but that was not possible,” he said.
“There are things in life that I have learned, but there are things I shouldn’t have learned for my age.”
Axel said St James College had offered him a second family and a place to belong, overcoming language and cultural barriers.
“Jimmies (St James College) has helped me a lot. I have lovely teachers.
“They usually understand me.
“When I am upset they encourage me. Without them I could have lost hope for ever.”
Axel, who speaks five languages, said he hoped his studies would lead him to help others – just as he has been supported through his final years of education.
“It has always been my dream to one day train to be a nurse because of the devastation I witnessed in the healthcare system in Africa,” he said.
“This motivates me to focus on my dream despite the many challenges I face.”
For Axel, the support offered by St James College through its Faithful Friends Fund, has been instrumental in keeping his spirits high.
Through the fund, alumni and supporters provide for students and families in need, and provide Axel with a uniform, laptop and school supplies, and ensuring he can participate in school events and excursions.
You can donate to the Faithful Friends Fund at: https://catholicfoundation.org.au/articles/endowment/st-james-college/