Martin and Mary fled violence only to find themselves under threat in another country. While they seek a safer home for their babies, they are devoted to helping others. Martin is planting medicinal plants to treat malaria, typhoid, and other diseases running rampant in their Refugee Settlement in Uganda. He hopes to open a hospital there.
Who: Family of five from “Democratic Republic of the Congo”
Current location: Refugee Settlement, Uganda
Status: Full UNHCR registration certificate
Needed: Sponsorship to Canada, fundraising
Their Life Now
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is famous for violent clashes between ethnic groups such as the Banyamulenge, Babembe, Bafuliiru, and Bashii. These conflicts have followed Martin and Mary – a married couple of two different ethnicities – to Uganda, where they currently live with their three children.
Both of them fled violence, but they still live in constant fear for their lives. Their family will not be safe until they are out of Uganda. That’s why we want to bring this lovely family to Canada through the private refugee sponsorship program, to give them a chance at a new life.
Mary, 24, is a Tutsi woman of the Banyamulenge ethnic group from the South Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mary is a musician and has studied to be a veterinarian. In 2015 she released an album with the Swahili title, BABA MOJA, which translates to “One Father,” in English. The album’s message was that all of the Congolese ethnic groups have the same father and that they should not be fighting with each other.
After the album’s launch, she and a fellow musician were kidnapped by unknown assailants and taken to the Kyamate forest, where they were tortured.
“I want to send a message of peace and unity. Banyamulenge, Babembe, Bafuliiru, Bashii and other ethnics we are belonging to the same father. Why do we have discrimination among us? They took us to the forest and they did terrible things to us and told us not to encourage reunification among ethnics.” – Mary
After several weeks, one of the members of the group that kidnapped the women helped Mary escape in exchange for payment. She went to an aunt but a few months later the village was attacked and the women fled to Uganda. That is where she met Martin.
Martin, 26, is also from South Kivu in the DRC. His father was Hutu, of the Bafuliru ethnic group, and his mother was Tutsi, of the Banyamulenge ethnic group (he is now considered to be hutu by others). In 1994, one year after Martin was born, the Rwandan genocide happened less than 400 km away from his family’s village. Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people (70% of the Tutsi population) were killed.
In August, 2010, when Martin was 17 years old, he was kidnapped, along with two other boys and one girl, by Rwandan rebel forces. They were taken to the Kitundu forest and accused of being spies.
“We were tortured and beaten with the sticks of fire. The girl was raped by several guys and after three days she died,” said Martin.
The camp was attacked later that month by unknown armed people, and the captives took the opportunity to run. Martin returned to his home village in September to find that his brother had been killed a few days earlier and that his entire family was accused of being spies and were now assassination targets.
He left for Uganda, eventually finding his way to the Refugee Settlement. That was in 2010 and he has been there ever since.
Romeo and Juliet
But they are still not safe.
Martin and Mary were married in 2015, though members of their respective ethnic groups, also living in the settlement, opposed the “mixed” marriage and continue to threaten them four years later.
“My and her ethnic members started following us and they will not leave us. They are saying that Tutsi and Hutu cannot live together, and we should be separated,” explains Martin.
They have three adorable children.
“I am afraid for my family and my children.” –Martin
Life in Uganda
During their time in Uganda, Martin has been working as a mentor with a charity organization, running a primary school, and planting medicinal plants in the settlement to help treat the many illnesses that afflict the residents. Mary is confined to the house. She is hoping for an opportunity to finally release her music.
“People in the settlement are affected by malaria, typhoid, U.T.I, stomachache and other diseases. We started planting medical plants. We have planted 100 moringa plants and will soon plant paw paws. I want to plant 4,000 plants to help treat these diseases. I believe in natural resources.” – Martin
“I want to record music and make people happy. I still have a message of peace. I just want a safer home for my family.” – Mary
We believe that this young couple and their beautiful children deserve a chance at a safe and secure life in a country that will welcome them with open arms and support.
There is hope
We are currently seeking five or more people to join a group to privately sponsor Martin and Mary to come to Canada. This group is led by Elizabeth Bromstein, Stephen Watt, and Laura Beth Bugg, Bruno Moynié and Aline Nizigama.
If you would like to join the effort to bring this lovely family to Canada, please let us know!
Before we can submit an application, we need to raise an estimated $35,000. These funds will go towards settling the family in Toronto for their first year, including shelter, food, clothing, furniture and startup costs.