Reunited at last

Heartache, trauma and resilience: Françoise’s journey from DRC to the Netherlands.


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Françoise, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), lived in Nakivale, a large settlement in southwest Uganda that hosted around 133,000 refugees at the time, from countries such as Somalia, Burundi and her native DRC.

A real pillar of the community in Nakivale and never seen without a smile on her face, it is hard to imagine Françoise as a lady who had experienced extreme heartbreak and trauma through a series of life-changing events which saw her tragically lose her four children and husband to violence.

Despite the multiple years of compounded trauma, Françoise’s resilience shone through. After only a few months in Nakivale, she was already a community leader: becoming a much-loved English teacher to refugee children, supporting and empowering local refugee women, and fostering a young woman from Burundi.

As the demand for Françoise’s work grew, she established the Kabazana Women’s Centre which provides training for women in skills such as tailoring, cooking, handicrafts, hairdressing and agriculture, helping over 1,000 women.

“I am a refugee myself but I also help my fellow refugee women to improve their lives.”    

In 2020, Françoise was chosen as the regional winner for Africa for UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award, a prestigious annual prize that honours those who have gone to extraordinary lengths to support forcibly displaced or stateless people.   

“I feel so good for healing my fellow refugees in these tough times. I have taught them to be independent and I am so proud.”  

Alongside all of the heartbreak and trauma Françoise had experienced, she still had one unanswered question – what was the fate of her parents? She had no contact with her parents since fleeing DRC, assuming that both of them had died.

Françoise Sabuni is reunited with her parents Margheritte Sabuni and Jean Baptiste Sabuni in The Netherlands.

Incredibly, her story made it to the Netherlands where a connection was made with two former refugees now living in Amsterdam. They were confirmed to be Françoise’s parents, and she was able to make direct contact with them. After waiting in Uganda for two years, Françoise was finally given the papers to resettle in the Netherlands this year.


To read more about Françoise’s story and reunion with her parents, with the support of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Gugu Mbatha-Raw, please visit the Vogue website. 


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