Case Study: Clementine's Story

Friday 10 December 2021



·       Jeannette, 48– Foster mothe



Save the Children has supported vulnerable and unaccompanied children in Mahama Refugee Camp since 2015 through its Alternative Care Program. 15 years old, Clementine is one of the children that Save the Children has placed into a foster family after being separated from her mother whilst in Rwanda.

Clementine arrived in Mahama refugee camp in 2017, from Mahama camp host community after passing through Gatore Reception center. Her mother whom she does not know, crossed into Rwanda before 2015 with her in search of a better life, but after sometime in Rwanda her mother decided to go back home to Burundi leaving Clementine with a promise of coming back for her later.

She left Clementine with a Rwandan friend in the host community. Unfortunately, Clementine was abused by this family including refusing her the right to an education by not enrolling her in school. In search of an escape, Clementine realized that there were other Burundians living in refugee settlements in Rwanda, she then took herself to Gatore reception center where she was received and officially registered as Burundian refugee living in Rwanda.

Since August 2021, when the fist cohort of Burundian refugees repatriated, Save the Children has collaborated with UNHCR and MINEMA to make it possible for family reunification of children and their families in Burundi and in country reunification. There are still children like Clementine in Mahama refugee camp who wish to be reunited with family members, Save the Children is still doing whatever it takes to reunify them with their families and before they are reunited with family members, they are placed in foster families and given caregivers and other support to help them be safe and be protected from any harm.


In Clementine’s own words:

It is not easy for anyone to live away from their parents, when I see other children playing with their parents, I feel resentful. This does not mean that I’m not happy with the family that is caring for me, but to be honest I always feel the pain of not having someone to call mom and freely be her child.

There is a time that I encounter challenges and wish my mother was around to help me deal with it but then I remember she is not around and I immediately feel pain.

I was separated from my mother when I was still very young without knowing anyone else. I don’t even know her, sometimes I feel like I hate her for leaving me alone like she did, but again I feel I miss her though I don’t even know how she looks like anymore.

Living as a separated child I can say that the one good thing I like is having a nice foster family. This family treats me as their own child, they treat me as they treat their own children. I like it when they are advising me to behave and also when they remind me that as a separated child I have to work harder to have a good future.


Project Background:

For the past five years, Save the Children has been on the frontlines of the Burundian refugee response providing integrated humanitarian services including lifesaving and critically needed child protection, health and nutrition interventions for girls, boys, women and men with or without disabilities. As part of this mission, Save the Children supports family tracing and reunification for child refugees in Rwanda. To date Save the Children have supported 281 girls and 398 boys with alternative care arrangements and family tracing and reunification.



Story gathered and translated by: Save the Children Rwanda and Burundi Country Office

Date of interview: November 2021

Country/region of interview: RWANDA

Interview language: KINYARWANDA