Joyce Kagai smiled for picture after picture with her classmates and family, before directing her five children to come near. A 2018 graduate of the Regis University Diploma in Liberal Studies program offered through Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL), Joyce gave the graduation speech in the Dzaleka refugee camp.
But at this moment, it was Joyce and her five children. One by one she made each of them try on her graduation attire. She wanted them to have something to strive for. She wanted them to feel the success. Mainly she wanted them to know the power of education, especially in a place like Dzaleka. “By graduating today, it is a testament of courage, hard work and determination on my part,” said Joyce, a Rwanda refugee. “But my main focus is to become an inspiration to my children and to the other women in my community.”
The 28 graduates that walked across the stage on Friday, were the largest class ever out of Dzaleka. The refugee camp, located southeastern Africa, houses more than 34,000 refugees.
“Today I welcome you to the Regis Alumni Association,” said John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J., Regis’ president who gave the commencement speech to graduates in Malawi. “We have 11,000 students and you are now part of that family. I couldn’t be happier.” Fitzgibbons and Creighton University President Daniel Hendrickson, S.J., who also attended, told those assembled how important education was, especially to displaced populations like Dzaleka’s camp.
On this day, the power of JWL was on display. Many of the graduates start businesses or lead community-based organizations within the camp. Just like Joyce, who in addition to running her own business selling snacks and drinks, is launching an initiative to support young moms called the Teen Mom Association. She knows the importance of community when raising children. She also knows how education is a global equalizer. “A single community, a single teacher, a single cohort or a single woman can change the world,” she said.