Venancia was doing everything right. As an eager student growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she studied hard. Her future was bright, until …
… she found herself crumpled on the ground, screaming, and holding her shattered leg. A bullet—out of nowhere, not even aimed at her—hit her in the leg.
Moments before, Venancia and her friends were playing soccer. At the sound of the gunfire, everyone scattered to find safety. Everyone but Venancia, that is. She lay in the middle of the big soccer field alone and in agony for more than seven hours.
Finally, a family member found Venancia and rushed her to the hospital. The news was not good—the doctors would have to amputate.
Recovering from the accident, Venancia lost more than two years of school. She enrolled again as soon as she could. By then, she was too far behind her former classmates.
“It was a nightmare,” Venancia remembers. “But, I was more determined than ever to finish my studies. I know that finishing school means my life will be better. I will be able to find a job and support myself.”
Circumstances beyond Venancia’s control set her up for a lifetime of poverty. Born into a war-torn country, Venancia found a safe haven in school, a beautiful world where the outside chaos didn’t touch her.
One after the other, she lost all five of her siblings to the violence.
My mom finally decided that if we wanted to live, we would have to leave. We left DRC on foot and walked for over a week,” Venancia says.
For Venancia, walking meant hobbling on crutches.
And the escape meant that Venancia put her studies on pause—again. Her future seemed forever at the mercy of forces outside of her control.
Venancia missed another year of school getting settled into a refugee camp. When she returned to the classroom, once again she was older than everyone else in her class. And now she also faced a language barrier. She spoke French, but her new classes were conducted in English.
“I didn’t mind that I couldn’t understand anything at first,” she says. “I knew that in time I would learn English, too. I would rather struggle with a new language than go back home and risk my life.”
It wouldn’t be surprising if Venancia gave up on her dreams. Yet she has faced each setback with grace and grit.
Venancia is completely alone now. Her mother died a year ago.
School is now her home. Her classmates are her family. Education is all she has left. It is the key to her survival.
With no one to help pay for her school fees, Venancia doesn’t know how she will complete her final year of high school.
“If it weren’t for school, I wouldn’t have anyone. I’d be living in a small house without my mother,” Venancia says.