About Refugees, By Refugees

Elton Sibanda

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Mostafa Darwish

Elton Sibanda (19) says his dream is “to be a professional artist.” Elton had to leave his home in Zimbabwe with his brother and parents for “political reasons.” They now live in temporary housing for asylum seekers in Ireland. Elton dreams of getting out of the housing which he says is “not good for anyone.” In addition to the poor living conditions, there’s the uncertainty. His family have already been moved once. “I had to start over,” he recalls. Elton says that it’s “bad because you don’t know… what will happen tomorrow.” When Elton thinks of his life in Zimbabwe he misses his friends: “I feel lonely sometimes.” He adds: “I feel like this is not my home. Sometimes I feel like this is my home. So, it’s kind of confusing.” The experience hasn’t been completely negative. “I have grown in mentally,” says Elton. And, he says, that no matter how hard the situation, “I would just say never give up.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

What’s your name?
It’s Elton Sibanda.

What kind of housing do you live in?
Direct provision.

Like how it looks like?
The room is like [not clear audio]. 

Can you describe the conditions?
I would say, it’s bad.

Uh, who do you live with?
I live with my brother, my mother and my father.

OK, how do you spend your time here? Do you work?
Yea, yeah, Yes, I’m doing a part time work in Killarney and I’m studying in St. John’s College.Yeah.

So you work part time and you study at the same time?

And also talk about your your art?
And maybe how I started? 

Yeah. Like like re…how, like what is the art that you’re doing means for you?  Like are you focusing on the portraits, you are painting on direct provision residence, or?
OK  for now for I’m only focusing on painting people’s portraits and doing maybe some landscapes for like college stuff.That’s all I am focusing now in some projects for, you see, and [unclear audio].

What are what are some of the things that bring you joy?
Umm, like some of the things make me happy?

Yeah. What makes you happy?
You may be doing some activities like maybe playing soccer with my friends or me meeting friends or playing some games.

How how has life been since you arrived in Europe, what what’s been good about being here? What is being difficult?
Being here it is good because it’s a quiet place. It’s a nice place. I mean, [unclear audio] people and is, sometimes it can be a bit like he, because he living in in the provision is not good for anyone. Like it is like you to be living inside the bushes or something.


Can you describe how how living here has made you feel?
Uh, I would say it made me feel better because compared to where I was living before.Yeah, it’s much better.

Uh, do you feel that, uh, do you feel sometimes that you don’t belong to here yet?
Yeah, sometimes I feel that. But, not most all the times.

And how does how do you feel that when you feel you’re not belonged here?
Like maybe sometimes if I’m in college, I feel like I’m a foreigner, you know, I’m left out or something. Something like that.

Is a bad?
Is it’s not that bad.

OK, yeah. Could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle the situation like when you was there in your home country? How have you been able to overcome, survive, live with that?
Like if you meet many people and you become, you used to the place and it can become like a second home to you.

Do you think that you developed the ability to deal with with these challenges or do you think you always had your skills? Strengths?
Yeah, I think I’ve developed more here than back home. I think develope it more skills, more ideas and more knowledge. Yeah.

And about the challenges?
I had many challenges when I first came here because I knew no one. I had no friends, no I had nothing when I came here. So by the time comes, I met them, some friends and then we started going out. So I overcome that challenge.

So you you develop that?

How has COVID-19 affected you in terms of daily life and your mood, feelings emotional well-being?
I’d say COVID-19 affected me because now I cannot go out and I cannot go out and chill with some friends, maybe we play soccer, maybe do some some of the (unclear audio) in the streets or something like that. Yeah, I think it affected me a lot. OK, now I know I have no freedom.

Why did you leave your country and can you describe what happened? If it is something critical just leave it.
Eh, eh,  It is because of the political reasons. I say it is because of new political reasons.

How did you how did that make you feel uh, at the time?
Yeah, I, I would say I was angry. I didn’t want to leave the country, but I had to leave the country.

How was the journey to Europe? Is there an experience that was particularly difficult that you could, uh, tell us about?
Uh, when I first, when when when when I came here, I started in in Balseskin and then when I got used to Balseskin and then they transferred us, two years, so I had to start over a year in Drishane. And so I had to make a living in Drishane and is not like you. You live here for the rest of your life. So sometimes they  can even transfer you to another place so so I would say is kind of bad because you is because you don’t know that you, what will happen tomorrow. 

Yeah. This is the most tough staying here , you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Yeah.

Do you think that, do you think about these events often and when? Is there something in particular you think about, uh, often?
Can you repeat the question please? 

Do you think about these things, these feelings often? And when do you feel it?
Sometimes, sometimes if I miss my friends home, I feel lonely sometimes. Yeah. Sometimes I even, like, you see I see my pictures when when I was in Africa so I miss where I was living.

What do you feel when you you think about it?
I feel angry. I feel I feel like this is not my home. Sometimes I feel like this is my home. So it’s kind of confusing.

Does the situation you your faced affecting you today and how?
It affected me emotionally, but I had to live with it because I have no choice.

Could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle that situation?
And like how?

And how could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle that situation?
Yes, e- e-. Yes, I can handle the situation because I can, because now I’m used to everything, here in Ireland, so I can easily handle the situation. 

How were you able to survive, get through it? Have you created any kind of strategy, the coping mechanisms to get through that hard times, difficult memories, or where do you find, uh, strength and the support you want?
Whenever I feel that I always talk to my friends here in Drishane, or I can you can go to my club and talk to someone there.

OK? Your family also gave you some support?

Before the event that led you flee home, what was your dream? Have you hat was your dream
? Eh, My dream was to become in a professional artist. Yeah, that was my dream.

And now you still have this dream?
Yes. And I’m still pursuing this dream of becoming a professional artist.

That’s a good, bro. When you were leaving your home, what was the dream for the future?
Uh, I was hoping to to become famous and to help others way I can help like teaching art maybe do maybe some volunteering stuff and something like that.

Before leaving your home country, what would you describe as your strengths? Have you maintained this? If so, how?
Uh, I, I didn’t know where I was going to go on this because the leaving home on your own is not easy. So you you so so you just go with the flow.

What you have been through some really difficult? Do you feel like you have grown in in any way as a result of these experiences or has anything at all positive come out of it?
Yeah, I was, I would say I have grown in in in mentally. I have grown in mental because I’m used to it. I’m now used to here than back home, so I feel like here is my is my home here. 

What are your hopes and dreams for the future now? Can you answer my dreams and then continue?
I would say my dream, I would say my dream,  I wish to be a professional artist and I hope to get papers and move out of Direct Provisions.

I hope so too brother.
Ah thanks. 

I really appreciate you answering all these questions, Brother. There is anything you would like to add that might help the people in Europe better understand the life or of refugee here?
And I would I would just say never give up.No matter how hard the the situation is in Direct Provision.  You just keep on going.

OK, Brother. Thank you very much.

Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.