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Former refugee Juvenal says education is the key to life

Juvenal Ndayishimiye’s remarkable journey has taken him from Central African refugee to Griffith University graduate, family man and South-East Queensland migrant leader.

Along the way, Juvenal has experienced impact in many forms – from the perspective of his own need; in the support he has received from others; and in the example he is now setting in his own career and community.

A former recipient of a Griffith Futures Scholarship, Juvenal graduated with a Bachelor of Business (Logistics and Supply Chain Management) in 2011. This achievement came just two years after arriving in Australia, eight years after leaving his war-torn homeland of Burundi and including six years in a refugee camp in Kenya.

Granted the right to settle in Australia in 2009, Juvenal was forced to temporarily leave his girlfriend Odette in Kenya. His goal was to pursue a university education and to clear a path for the couple to reunite and share a new life in Australia. The support from his Griffith Futures Scholarship soon assumed a value beyond the monetary.

“I’ll always appreciate it. I was made to feel I belonged. I was made to feel valued,” says Juvenal. “That feeling has followed me ever since. In the same way that I was welcomed into the community of Griffith University and in Brisbane, where we would make our home, I want others to have that same opportunity.

“I had to flee my country. You can’t imagine all the things you miss. You worry about the people you left behind. You worry constantly about the future.”

Still, Juvenal’s dedication saw him earn a Griffith Futures Scholarship, awarded to students who are excelling in their studies despite personal or financial hardship.

“It was such a tough time. I would have been happy with $100. But this scholarship helped me so much with my daily needs. I will always be grateful and I have tried to repay that generosity by helping others.”

In an interview before graduating, Juvenal observed: “Education is the key to life. It is so important. It kept me going.”

Today he is a long-serving employee at Suncorp and he and wife Odette are doting parents to daughter Michelle and son Jarvis. Juvenal also carries the best interests of other young people among South East Queensland’s significant Burundi community.

“Youth work has always been part of my life,” he says. My position as a Board member of the Association of the Burundian Community of Queensland has enabled me to run youth mentoring projects in the community generally, working with the support of Logan City Council.

“It’s a way of helping people to bridge the gap between their former life and their new future. I want to ease their struggle, the way my struggle was eased.”

Juvenal still has cause to ponder the impact of the Griffith Futures Scholarships, likening their support as a planted seed that grows and bears fruit in a never-ending cycle ... and in a shared, positive impact.