GenocideI Am My StoryRefugeeWhat We Carried

Shirt, Makamba, Burundi

Jim Lommasson
Jim Lommasson / What We Carried

Makamba, Burundi:

This was the shirt I was wearing when my family first got on the 1st bus from Nduta Camp to another camp to be screened before we arrived in the states.  I have kept this particular piece of shirt for 13 years as if it serves as a reminder never to forget my roots and upbringing. I remember vividly the day the day I got this piece of outfit, a skirt, and a shirt’s match set. Back in the summer of 2004, this specific outfit was trendy and a must have for everyone, remarkably little girls my age – 8 at the time. I remember my parents breaking the news to my sister and me that we couldn’t afford it; + was probably worth fifteen thousand Tanzanian shillings, which is equivalent to about 6.45 U.S. dollars. My twin sister and I got the biggest surprise of a lifetime when our parents surprised us with both matching sets a few weeks before our departure to a different camp – 2 years after we had begged them to buy us the outfits.

I grew up w/a few clothes – my Sunday best – 2 beautiful custom made dresses, my everyday wear – 2 skirts, two T- shirts, and my school clothes – including a skirt and a shirt. Throughout my years in Nduta Camp, Tanzania, I probably owned three pairs of shoes – including pairs of sandals since close toe shoes were costly.

For most families in Nduta Camp, Tanzania, clothing was an expensive necessity –- which most people couldn’t afford. To help reduce costs, I remember my parents would accept hand-me-downs from other families whose children outgrew their clothes or save all the clothes for their future children.

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