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Meet Innocent Ndayambage, Rwandan Refugee and Kepler-SNHU Student

Meet Innocent Ndayambage, refugee and SNHU student

Today is World Refugee Day, which gives us all a moment to contemplate the dire state of so many places where refugees live, but also to celebrate their resilience and courage in facing some of the planet's most difficult and dangerous situations. There are currently are over 60 million refugees worldwide - the highest number ever recorded in human history. While we frequently see the headlines about the humanitarian sprawl that this number represents in the news, it's often hard to imagine what the individual stories and struggles are behind this staggering number.

On World Refugee Day, SNHU is proud to introduce Innocent Ndayambage, a College for America student in Kiziba refugee camp, in order to shed light on the incredible journey of many refugees. He's part of the founding class of 25 students attending Kepler Kiziba-Rwanda's (and one of the world's) first universities in a refugee camp. Kepler Kiziba is a collaboration between Kepler and College for America, which have partnered to offer both students in Kigali and now refugees in Rwanda, degrees from Southern New Hampshire University. This project demonstrates SNHU's utilization of innovation in combination with compassion and determination to expand access to a high-quality and affordable education for all potential students. Today, on World Refugee day, Kepler and College for America are welcoming 25 more students to the Kiziba campus - to increase the total number of students served to 50 - for the inauguration of something they never thought would be possible: Working towards their bachelor's degrees while living as refugees in Rwanda.

Meet Innocent Ndayambage, a Kepler student working to earn his degree from Southern New Hampshire University through College for America. He's 25 years old and has been living in Kiziba refugee camp for the last 17 years. This is not unusual, however, and several of Kiziba's refugees have been there for nearly two decades, since the camp was established in 1996. If you talk to Ndayambage for more than five minutes, you're bound to hear about his grandmother. She's the centripetal force in his life, and they are relatives, best friends and the few survivors of their family left from the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from which they escaped more than 15 years ago.

His grandmother had fled the DRC with her son (Ndayambage's uncle), Ndayambage and his cousins. He doesn't really remember this trip. Ndayambage was too young to remember the burning of his family's house, the slaughter of their livestock, and the destruction of their property. He also only knows through the stories of his grandmother how he was carried on her back through mortars, gunfire and some of the world's most violent rapists and tyrants throughout eastern Congo in 1996. She carried him for more than fifteen days on foot - without water, running toward safety while their friends were killed from grenades and countless neighbors were shot or hacked to death and killed right next to them.

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