Divine Irakoze Story: Set the world on fire

Every action you take impacts the lives of others around you , The question is, Are you aware of your impact?

Refugees are very amazing people. Like you, they need love, respect, equal opportunities and dignity. It is not their desire to leave their home countries. They have just lost everything and all they want is starting a new chapter of their lives. For many, it is never easy.

We crown 2020 with a very inspirational Story from Divine Irakoze, a refugee from Burundi living in Malawi.

When we heard her story, we imagined the tones of unheard refugee stories from all over the continent that need to be told.

How would you describe yourself?

My name is Divine Irakoze. I am twenty years old and a refugee from Burundi living in Malawi. I am very passionate about refugee work. I am currently the founder and team leader of Dzaleka Youth in Action Organization

How did you land in Malawi?

I was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania. My parents later moved to Malawi. Malawi is where we have lived for the past sixteen years. It is all I have known as home. I have never been to my motherland, Burundi.

What does Dzaleka mean?

Dzaleka originates from Malawi's Bantu speaking language called chichewa and means "I will never try again". Dzaleka is the only permanent refugee camp in Malawi. History says that Dzaleka used to be one of the worst prisons in Malawi.

Tell us about Dzaleka Youth in Action Organization?

Dzaleka Youth in Action (DYIA) is an advocate desk for the vulnerable Children, youths and elders in Dzaleka Refugee camp community.

We live and work by the principle, “see a need, take a lead. We are the voice and hope for the refugees in our community.

What inspired you to start Dzaleka Youth in Action Organization?

One day , as I moved around my community. I met fellow refugees who told me that they had spent over three days without a meal. I was moved. I could only see hunger in their eyes.

I mobilized fellow youths in my community and shared with them the need to support the refugees with household items. We opened our hearts to compassion and solidarity.

How is refugee life in Malawi?

See, being a refugee is not easy. You are fighting for space in a country that is not your own. Divine says.

Most people look down on the refugees. As a girl child, there are so many reasons for us to give up, Life in the camp entirely depends on food distributions. The food at times is barely enough. Most girls are child mothers because they are lured by the old men to meet other basic needs for their families.

In Malawi, refugees need permission to travel outside the camp, accessing public schools and universities is a daily prayer... Refugees are not allowed to work. This has left so many youths in the camp unemployed. They are wasted away into drug abuse and other unhealthy habits.

What impact have you had on the refugee community?

As part of our covid-19 relief plan, we have given each refugee family 15 kilogram bag of maize flour, 1little of cooking oil, 1kilogram of sugar, 1packet of candles and soya pieces to help them during this hard times.

As a young start up, what are some of the challenges you have faced?

Hmmm, as a start up the demands are always many. Most of the families we support are far, we lack a bicycle to help us in transporting items to them, materials such as laptops for keeping records , office space , cannot be afforded now since most of us are still students. We lack enough financial backing, the support we get from friends can only help us reach a few families yet there are so many in need.

Amidst it all, we are still giving the people we serve positive energy and in the near future we are looking forward to starting our own income generating activities to support more refugees.

What are your future aspirations?

My dream is to advocate for and empower refugees with skills for self-reliance. I am looking forward to doing a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Advocacy. I believe that refugees deserve a good environment that calls for respect just like any other human being.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction working with refugees?

It is seeing refugees get help from not only Dzaleka Youth in Action but other organizations too. It lightens up my day.

Are there any programs that have shaped your journey as a leader?

Oh yes, I have had the privilege of being a (YALI) Young African Leaders Initiative alumni from the East African Regional Leadership Center in Nairobi. I have worked as a Human Resource Administrative assistant at There is Hope. I am also a mentor at Children’s Parliament with Plan International in Malawi. I hold a Diploma in Liberal Studies with specialization in Social Work at the Regis University.

What message would you love to tell your fellow youths?

Appreciate all the youths that are making a contribution in their communities. For those that are not doing anything. It is never too late to start.

Our communities need us. The youths living in refugee camps are looking up to us. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do. We all have a role to play in growing our communities. Together we can set the world on fire.

Why we love this story?

Divine's story challenges us to ask. Do situations define us? Growing up in a country that is not her home did not stop Divine from making a difference in the lives of fellow refugees. Her story is of resilience, a living proof that we all have a responsibility to make our communities the best places to live in. It starts with you.

Some of the refugee children in the community.

To connect with Divine and her organization.
Follow on Facebook: Divine A Irakoze and Dzaleka youth in Action Organization (DYIA)

This article was first published by Tell a Story Foundation Uganda


  1. Hello dzaleka.com,
    Thanks to dzaleka.com for the work which is doing to ensure that refugees are being held and assisted in a way that convenient.

    Best Regards,
    Fabrice I Shyaka,
    Director Of ICT @ dzalekarising.com

    1. Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. We are glad to hear that you appreciate the work we are doing to assist refugees at Dzaleka.com. We appreciate your support and look forward to continuing to serve the refugee community.

      Best regards,
      Dzaleka Connect Team

  2. Hello Dzaleka Connect Team,

    I would like to share my life experience here in Dzaleka.com. I am requesting for permission to do that.

    your regards,

    Shindano Sango

    1. Hi Shindano, Thank you for expressing your interests in sharing your story with Dzaleka.com. You can submit your piece at dzalekaconnect@gmail.com for review before publishing your story.


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