I started my life differently to that of my eight brothers and sisters.

They were all born in the hospital with the help of doctors and nurses. However, against all odds, my mother gave birth to me at home in the bathroom by herself, during the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I was raised by both my parents in a family of nine children, six girls and three boys. We shared good moments, dreams and developed a special family bond.

Then, in a blink of an eye, everything was shattered.
​"When the civil war broke out again, my
family split up for the first time."
Dad went away for his safety, and mum, by herself, had to be the breadwinner for nine children. My mother is an incredibly strong woman and we share an extremely close bond. She has taught me many lessons about being strong woman and overcoming obstacles. 

 

 

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Displaced people enter the town of Kalembe, in North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after fleeing their homes in the nearby town of Piti during ongoing fighting between rebels and government forces in 2009. © UNICEF/UNI9674/Kavanagh
 

My siblings and I experienced unsettling interruptions to our education due to the war in which UNICEF played an important role in providing us with stationery so we could keep studying.

After couple of months our family spilt up again for the second time. Out of 11 people in my family only three were together (my mum, myself and my brother) with our strong Christian belief we firmly held to hope and perseverance to overcome adversity.

​"Out of 11 people in my family
only three were together."
In 2010 we moved to Kenya as refugees. Everything was new. We faced difficulties in understanding the customs and social norms, as well as financial difficulties. We struggled to fit into a different education system, and language barriers meant I had to repeat a grade.

Despite no one in my family holding a degree or any qualification, my mum has always encouraged me to pursue and firmly hold onto education as a way to change our lives.
 
Displaced people enter the town of Kalembe, in North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after fleeing their homes in the nearby town of Piti during ongoing fighting between rebels and government forces in 2009. © UNICEF/UNI9674/Kavanagh
The route to the Mpondwe, the boarder between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, pictured in 2019 © UNICEF/UN0307510/Bongyereirwe

After a couples of months we were reunited with my dad and one of my brothers in Kenya. This was a terrific moment for us although both my parents were without work, and the circumstances compelled us to live in a one room flat with five people.

At the age of 12, I vividly remember going to the markets to clean people’s shops to contribute to our survival. At the same time I worked hard in school, and was appointed as prefect from grade 3 to 8. I received a scholarship for my high school which gave me sense of purpose and meaning in life.

 

​"I vividly remember going to the markets
to clean people’s shops to contribute to our
survival. At the same time I worked hard
in school, and was appointed as prefect."
A young girl listens carefully during class in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, October 2018. © UNICEF/UN0271324/Tremeau
After living in Kenya for six years and 3 months holding to hope, my family was privileged to be resettled in Australia in April 2017, through the Humanitarian Visa Program with the help of Murray Valley Sanctuary Refugee Group, a community refugee support in Albury-Wodonga.
 
​"At the time I didn’t want to move to
Australia, but I didn’t have a choice.
"

In my mind I thought I would experience the same difficulties as those I experienced in Kenya.

Then, arriving in Sydney airport I encountered all of the world’s races working together harmoniously. I learnt how beautiful it is when people cooperate despite their differences. This changed my perspective on Australia almost immediately - I didn’t know how diverse the nation was before I arrived.
 
​"I didn’t know how diverse the
nation was before I arrived.
"
Because of my experiences I’m a strong believer in social justice and equality - particularly in education. This is because education is the passport to the current world and to the future. It is the tool that can be used to change the world. All children and young people are entitled to education, and should be afforded the opportunity to reach their potential through education no matter where they live in the world.


Atosha currently lives in Albury-Wodonga and is in Year 12. She was awarded Youth Ambassador of the Year in her local council area in 2018 and is currently one of the eight UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors working to advocate for the rights of children and young people in Australia. 


 
UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador Atosha in Sydney © UNICEF Australia/Patrick Moran

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