I was born in Uganda, a country with a history of Tyranny and dictatorship that has put citizens in bondage and fear. The fear made us give-up our rights. Even though; I was employed by the Government, I was very worried and very uncertain of the future of my child and the future generation experiencing the same injustices I faced growing up. I sympathized with other social activists directly involved in the struggle to demand for our freedom

By engaging with social justice activities, I was beginning my journey into the world of detention and torture. Additionally, I didn’t know I was putting my family at risk of pain, torture, suffering and fear. Today, not only I, but they too, remain living in absolute fear and isolation traumatized by a government that seeks to systematically persecute those who speak up for the rights of everyday Ugandans.

I was detained subjected to numerous forms of torture; lit-cigarette burns, harsh interrogations, threats to my life, and an onslaught of beatings and periods of starvation for several months.

In March, 2015, I arrived in the USA; traumatized, stressed, hopeless and in fear. I was beginning a journey of a different kind into a land I did not know. I had no family, relative or even a friend. Life was unbearable. But enduring all the tragedies became my source of strength. I learnt Parents give us life, but the world gives us a family.

The community and the church have always been my guide and have stayed with me every step along this journey. I have patiently been attached to this journey with resilience and hope.

I am grateful to Refugee Welcome, a nonprofit organization developed by Charla Burnett that has lent a shoulder for me to raise again. I have met great people who have walked and helped me recover my energy. They have encouraged me.  They have all the time wiped-off my tears. I feel I am home again. Through Refugee Welcome, I have been able to get a full Graduate Scholarship to study a Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation and Peace Building at The School for International Training (SIT). To effectively concentrate with my studies, I seek to reunite with my family more especially my daughter whom I left when she’s only two months old and still trapped in Uganda.


-Kenneth Mukonyezi

Fresh Start Awardee