Announcing the Winners of the 2023 SNHU GEM Poetry Contest

GEM poetry contest winners, Joseph Pal Char (left) and Rene Ndayambaje (right)

Congratulations to SNHU GEM students Joseph Pal Char and Rene Ndayambaje!

Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement (SNHU GEM) recently held its inaugural student poetry contest, which offered our students a chance to creatively reflect on and share their life experiences on the in a response to one of five prompts:

  • The importance of positive thinking
  • The person who changed my life
  • The moment you realized you were beautiful
  • Someone who helped you set a goal
  • A moment that made you a better person

In response, SNHU GEM learners shared heartfelt poems about their love for their families, their difficult experiences as refugees, their impressive educational journeys, and so much more. It was a difficult decision, but our panel of judges selected two winning poems from the many submitted entries.

Congratulations to the winners of our 2023 SNHU GEM poetry contest: Joseph Pal Char and Rene Ndayambaje!

GEM poetry contest winner, Joseph Pal Char

Joseph Pal Char is a South Sudanese refugee pursuing his associate degree in general sciences at SNHU GEM and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). After living in Kakuma refugee camp for more than two decades, Joseph leapt at the opportunity to continue his education with SNHU GEM and JRS Kenya. Joseph is proudest of his work as a medical assistant in the Amusait General Hospital in Kakuma and other positions assisting in hospitals. He plans to continue his education with a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.

When writing his poem, Joseph drew inspiration from his personal life, work experience, and the realities of life as a refugee. “I was inspired to tell the story of the 185,000 refugees in Kakuma camp and the rest around the globe. To tell the story of how we lose everything, our home, our comfort and seek refuge in new countries. To tell the story of those that have had to break loose from cultural norms that hold them back,” said Joseph. “Now we find a good thing, education, that changes us, our society, and our country at large. I wanted to tell these stories and my story through this poem.”


A Moment That Made Me A Better Person

By Joseph Pal Char

Amidst teak and mahogany forests,

Lies our mud-hut, beautiful and small,

Next to the house is cattle-shed,

Millions sing every morning call.


Born in no education,

Farm and adventure we go,

Swimming and herding,

That was the definition of fun.


In realms of dreams, where life takes form,

Duty whisper beckons, cultural norm,

Born to be a soldier, born to be a man,

Adulthood calls, at the age of five.


Amidst duty calls, lies tears behind,

Dreams go away, life is left behind,

We lose folks, we lose homes,

Poverty and hunger knock, doors wide opened.


We flee to new homes, in lands uncharted and free,

Greeted by script and quill, we burry arrows and pistol-tees,

We script our fate each day, art of change swifts’ sweet range,

Highest amongst the class, keen and meek in school domain.


Years flew, pals withdrew,

We chased the paper, crafting the paper,

Out where it’s real, dressed to appeal,

Fighting for generations to come, as millions stay numb.


It cradled me, found me a new home,

I gaze above and think, Is that me?

Smiles as I climb, progress I undertake,

With pen at hand, I was a better person.

 Rene Ndayambaje

Rene Ndayambaje is a Congolese refugee living in Rwanda, pursuing his associate degree in general sciences at SNHU GEM and Kepler Kigali. Born into a family of eight children led by a single mother, Rene was inspired to submit a poem about his mother’s strength. “Growing up, I only saw my mother taking care of us, as our father had already ended his life journey. In all that we passed through, she was with us, playing both roles,” he explained. 

Rene was also motivated by his own academic journey: As a high school student attending Hope School, a small institution started by a refugee, he was grateful to the institution for stepping in after their students were denied the right to sit for the national exam, and guiding them to become high school graduates. “All of this made me think of the journey that inspired me to craft this poem,” said Rene.


The Person Who Has Changed My Life

By Rene Ndayambaje

In a family of eight, we thrived

our mother’s guide, strength inside

father’s absence cast a shadow wide

yet mother’s love a relentless tide.


Financial struggle gripped our days

but her spirit, held steadfast always

through hardships in countless ways

she nourished us with hope’s bright rays


From a refugee camp’s uncertain start

education kindles dreams within my heart

o level’s door seemed to be locked apart

but hope school ignite a fresh start


Senior six’s exam summit we pursued

obstacles tested; our will renewed

amidst challenges that once subdued

young gents suffer for brotherhood


A mother’s son, the path was tough

yet dreams and goals, we held enough

till impact hope revealed its stuff

turning impossible into good enough


Graduation’s triumph, a testament true

impact hope’s light guided us through

hand in hand, we overcame and grew

black ship’s steep journey, hope a new


With mother’s love and god’s embrace

we stand resilient in life’s grand race

proudly moving to our destined place

as stars in the sky, our dreams we chase.


Giving back still a melody to chill

lacking support is never thing to feel

your bare hands serve a perfect meal

This thanks, will forever stand still.