“It is a common held belief that people with strength rule and those who are weak are ruled. My name is Jean-Claude but my friends call me Dikanda. I am from Cameroon and I seek a better life filled with peace.”

Several months ago Lucy, an I AM YOU volunteer, drew a portrait of Dikanda. She hopes to represent the many inspiring personalities and voices that she found in Ritsona and to encourage a much-needed ongoing conversation about the refugee crisis. Last month Amandine, our communications volunteer, interviewed Dikanda. This is his story...

WARNING: Content might be disturbing to read for some audiences. 


“After trying twice before, I arrived in Greece on my third attempt. I found out the hard way that the journey through Nigeria and then after through Chad was too complicated. I was forced to return to Cameroon after those failed attempts. Then, I came to a crossroads… my brother was murdered. Seeking justice anywhere in Africa is difficult due to systematic corruption and authoritarian governments. It is a common held belief that people with strength rule and those who are weak are ruled. I was arrested after our family tried to sue the army officer who killed my brother. I escaped from prison, fled my country and didn’t look back. When I reached Turkey, I quickly realized I was not welcomed and that I was not going to be granted asylum. After a month and a half of uncertainty, I decided to attempt asylum in Europe and soon after realized it was my turn to cross the sea…

I took the greatest chance of my life when I boarded a small dinghy off the coast of Turkey. More than 200 people risked death alongside me that night as we crossed the Mediterranean Sea from the city of Izmir. It was pitch dark, the middle of the night, I remember the rain. It was falling hard and the seas that night were very rough. I ended up in the water and was forced to learn to swim that night because, if not, I would have drowned. I did my very best for what I guess was more than an hour. Then a boat arrived and helped us all out of the water. For a moment I was thankful, but what lied ahead was worse than anything I could have imagined… we were taken to Moria Camp.


I lived, I should say… I survived in Moria for 7 months. I endured many hardships inside that camp and I pray for those who still remain. I was sheltered in a tent but it was brutally cold and there were no bathroom or toilet facilities. Living in Moria is awful, there are no words. Sometime along the way, I started experiencing hallucinations, reliving over and over again what happened to me during my journey and unable to see past the difficulties I faced on a daily basis. At times, I felt as if I was communicating with my dead brother. I remember those memories today and my mind now goes to prayer.


Today, I live in Ritsona Refugee Camp. I have been living here for the past 11 months. Here, I feel better and I feel comfortable. I live in a proper caravan and very far from many of my past difficulties. I have a proper place to sleep. I have friends. I am a spiritual person and I try to be helpful in my daily life and wherever I am needed. I enjoy translating for my Africans brothers and I am also the coach in our caravan gym. I want to be someone. I am already a person, but being someone is different. A person is a human but being someone means to be a person who brings something to others, who can help, who can make people smile. Every morning, I have a ritual. I always take some time to look up at the sky and I thank the Lord for my day.


In Cameroon, being rich means having many kids and many wives. But nowadays, in a more globalized world, being rich means owning material things and real estate property. It was difficult to achieve this in my home country. I studied Marketing and I found it challenging trying to find a job in this field. I experienced the closing of our local businesses and the opening of private ones led by foreigners who favored expat hiring practices as opposed to native Cameroonians. As a young, vibrant man I found it overwhelmingly frustrating not being able to integrate myself into my own society. For me, richness is love and I believe love should be shared. The important thing right now in my life is not where I live but where I feel alive. The best feeling for me is when I’m sharing with people, when everybody feels good and you are part of their happiness. This is the greatest wealth. Someday, I would like to be my own boss and create a company in which I could be useful hopefully in my country. I’d like to improve transportation in Cameroon. I would also like to create an NGO where I would help orphans and people who don’t have enough for living.

***This account was provided by Ritsona resident Jean-Claude Dikanda, translated and written by I AM YOU volunteer Amandine and edited by I AM YOU staff member Sabrina.***