All for service to my fellow refugees
He gestures to stress a point. Katalayi Mbayi, 56, is a community facilitator who has lived in Zambia for the last 23 years. He has done this for a record eight years and is not ready to quit.
He works alongside AAH Zambia staff in the Lusaka Urban Refugee Project to needs of refugees and asylum seekers and is part of the counselling team. “I do home visits to see what problems refugees are going through and we discuss where they can get assistance from,” he says.
He says on average he reaches out to ten refugees every week and urges them to support each other. “I prod others to go for Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) in order to know their HIV/AIDs status. Most of them are appreciative of the support I give them,” says the father of eight who himself is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mbayi often urges the refugees to start small businesses, in order to reduce their dependence on Aid organisations like AAH Zambia. He is a role model. He runs a successful shop, while his wife Ntumba Mwauka, 52, sells traditional women clothing (locally known as Chitenge). “I started the shop through subsistence allowance (provided by AAH Zambia) in 2013," he reveals. He says his shop is growing and it enables him cater for some basic needs.
Mbayi fled conflict in DRC in 1993. “I was a first-year student taking a Chemistry degree at Lubumbashi University in Katanga Province when conflict made me discontinue my education and flee,” says the congenial man. He first lived in a town along the border of DRC and Zambia for four years before moving to Maheba, a refugee settlement in North-Western Zambia. He moved to Lusaka in 2007 from Maheba, as his wife needed specialised treatment in Lusaka.
Mbayi thinks his success as a community facilitator stems from the fact that he is a refugee and understands the difficulties fellow refugees go through. 'I am happy that I am serving my colleagues and helping them realise a better life despite their circumstances', he says smiling in satisfaction.