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Supporting Refugee Participation & Advocacy
Fund Manager: N/A
£100
Raised on Reframe
0
Partners

Introduction

In Cohere’s 2022 report that highlights five barriers to meaningful refugee participation, we were able to identify how refugee leaders and refugee-led organisations (RLOs) have continued to be excluded from decision-making spaces. Through the report we made our recommendations on how Cohere and the sector can do better to ensure refugees are participating in all levels of programme development and leadership across the humanitarian sector. Refugees should have a seat at the table, especially when this is where decisions about their futures are being made.

Read the report here: https://bit.ly/3ZLseBi

And the Executive Summary here: https://bit.ly/3yzV37W

 

Outcomes

We would like to convert our learnings into action with the aim to fundraise for specific support for refugee-led organisations that will increase participation, improve access to advocacy opportunities and expand networks. These are essential activities to support the growing profile of refugee leaders and refugee-led organsations/networks.

 

Financial target: $30,000
These will include:
-    Refugee leaders representation at Global Refugee Forum, Geneva (Switzerland) - Dec. 2023
-    Refugee-led networking events
-    Fund for refugees who need sponsorship to attend high-level advocacy events
-    Community of Practice - refugee (exclusively) participation within the group

 

Specific indicators of success: 
-    Number of refugee leaders/organisations attending national or international foras, and participating in decision-making processes. 
-    RLOs/networks strengthened - measured through increased attendance, levels of member participation
-    Launch and progress of the Community of Progress

 

Partnerships
We will partner with a number of existing refugee-led organisations and/or networks who are focusing on advocacy, improved representation and have developed refugee networks. These partners will be invited to submit an Expression of Interest and be partners and beneficiaries of the pooled-fund. These partners will share in the promotion and fundraising objectives of the fund.

 

What is a pooled-fund? 
On Reframe, pooled-funds have been created to support refugee-led response to emergencies or thematic areas of work e.g Ebola Outbreak in Uganda, Education in Emergencies. The pooled-fund on Reframe gives donors the opportunity to learn about the response and donate to a group of RLOs who are involved. The donor can find out information about the project and donate through the page. 

Cohere receives these donates and distributes the funds to the different partner organisations. Cohere takes a small percentage of the donation to facilitate this transfer. 

Blogs

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Chrissie August 1, 2020

      Jasmine Asekome, founder of Caring Hands Empowerment Foundation in Nigeria talks about how her own childhood experiences that led her to find a community-based organisation supporting displaced children through education By Jasmine Asekome   This story is part of the co-branded story series, 'Rewriting the Narrative: Stories of & from Refugee & Community-Led Initiatives' a collaborative effort between  Samuel Hall, Youth Voices Community, Cohere, and Reframe Network. Members of various Refugee-Led and community-led Organisations part of the Reframe Network underwent an introductory training in storytelling and advocacy. They were then invited to share their personal narratives, capturing their journey, work, and the lasting impact of their initiatives. This collaboration aims not only to spotlight their incredible work but also to empower them with the skills to share their own stories effectively, fostering greater support, funding, and opportunities for their vital work. TW: Abuse, Domestic Violence From 1992 to 1998, my family and I moved to six different states and communities in Nigeria, in the Northern, Southern, and Western parts of the country. I remember a time when I was four years old in Kogi State, and my mother told me that we were moving to a new place. We lived in a small room with a rusted, old zinc bathroom located outside our building. Other tenants shared the bathroom with us as well. The language was challenging, but I managed to learn some of it because we were occasionally taught certain subjects in the native language. Shortly after that, we moved south, to our village. We had lived in Edo State previously with my maternal grandparents in Ekpoma, where I had attended three different nursery schools. This time, we found ourselves in my paternal grandmother's hut. It felt like someone had pressed a reset button, again. We had to learn everything about this new place - the culture, language, and people were different. We moved so frequently that the idea of home became lost on me. Being a new student was always difficult, I was constantly at the mercy of older students. The schools were understaffed, the teachers did not take bullying, mental health  and adjustments to change seriously, unless a child was bleeding or needed visible medical attention. Proof of a child fainting or suffering a severe injury was required. I also experienced terror at home, with my father violently abusing my mother until she bled and physically harming me to the point of urination or nosebleeds whenever he was around. The constant bullying in school and violence at home kept driving me into a shell. In an attempt to escape the constant domestic violence; my mother, my two younger brothers, and I made our final move to Ekpoma to live with my maternal grandparents. I was eight years old when we arrived. Education - A Constant Amidst Displacement For a long time, I didn't feel safe, welcome, or wanted in the new communities I joined. I didn't make many friends at school, more out of fear than preference. The ones I did have adopted me, and I went along with it. As soon as I started adapting to one place, we had to move again. As far as I was concerned, we had no home, given how often we moved and the places we had to stay in, such as unfinished buildings, a church, the floor of someone's kitchen, and mud beds. In total, I attended over 13 schools, 10 of which were primary schools. Discrimination and bullying were constant. All of this made me feel like I had to work five times harder to be seen, acknowledged, and accepted for who I was. It made me feel disconnected from my immediate environment. They had to build a supportive environment within their family unit, led by her mother: Education was important to my family. My mother was an avid reader, and she often helped me with my English homework, improving my language skills and knowledge. These after-school sessions with my mom not only improved my academic performance but also taught me the importance of being respectful. She taught me how to use the power of my imagination to adapt to new situations;  by drawing about my happy place and envisioning my future self. As I grew older and graduated from university, I realised that I wanted to help children who had experienced displacement, migration, or sought asylum, just like I had. I understood what it took to start over again and again as a child. I knew the impact of help and support from both strangers and familiar people. This understanding inspired me to establish the Caring Hands Empowerment Foundation in 2020. Caring Hands For A Confident Future Based in Lagos, the Caring Hands Empowerment Foundation is a nonprofit organisation that assists refugee and migrant children through sustainable educational support programs. Our journey began amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when we initiated our efforts by distributing essential food supplies to displaced families in Lagos, as well as to refugee communities in Uganda and Kenya. These initiatives were kick-started by a birthday fundraiser I organised for my 30th birthday, which, despite the economic hardships brought on by the pandemic, managed to raise $300. Each of these countries received $100, which was used to provide assistance we could to families living in settlements and camps. By July of that year, I faced another setback when my former employer did not renew my contract due to pandemic-related circumstances. This abrupt change in my financial situation put the organisation's activities on hold temporarily as I sought a stable income and continued to learn valuable lessons in nonprofit management. After a five-month hiatus, we slowly resumed operations in February 2021, with my funds sustaining the organisation until we secured our first non-financial partnership in 2022. This partnership was formed with a Nigerian company that generously provided storybooks and toys for our beneficiaries. Furthermore, we became beneficiaries by participating in Cohere's capacity-strengthening and knowledge-sharing course program. Currently, we work with volunteers, providing them with stipends for 6-9 month commitments, depending on available funds. Scaling Impact  Our initial efforts focused on assisting 65 refugee and internally displaced children in a Lagos Island community who attended different schools. We conducted outreach activities within their residential area. Since May 2022, we've expanded our educational support to 199 migrant children attending a community school in the Ajah and Ikorodu areas of Lagos. When we first met these children, over half of them couldn't speak English fluently, and they often had to share notebooks due to limited materials. Many of them wore mismatched or worn-out slippers to school. Through the foundation, I strive to ensure that the children we support through our educational programs are equipped with not just knowledge, but also confidence. This would enable them to continue their education seamlessly, even in the face of potential barriers from future displacements.  Now in our third year of operation, we have supported over 543 children, including refugees, migrants, and internally displaced individuals. In addition to our educational support, we distributed "Love packs" filled with biscuits, popcorn, sweets, crayons, colouring books, cupcakes, and juice during holidays from 2020 to 2022. When we began offering educational assistance to migrant children, there were three girls who stood out to us. They displayed a genuine passion for learning and socialising with their peers. However, during one of my visits to the school in November last year, I noticed a significant drop in attendance. Nearly 53% of the students were absent that day, including two of these girls. The third girl, who attended that day, explained that she alternated school days with her siblings due to her parents' inability to afford their fees, allowing her to attend school only twice a week. The other two girls, along with the absent children, needed to catch up on fee payments, which forced them to miss school and likely assist their parents or guardians in local businesses like the smoked fish trade or petty trading. The head teacher mentioned that this often led to the children missing exams and having to repeat their grades. Upon discovering this, I reported the situation to our team, and we conducted an emergency fundraiser. We secured funds to cover the school fees of 15 deserving children, including our three girls, selected based on their academic performance. They completed their first-term exams. However, concerns arose about sustaining this support to ensure uninterrupted academic progress. By April 2023, thanks to Cohere's grant, we could cover the school fees for 35 children for an entire year, including the 15 from the previous year. This enabled them to enjoy uninterrupted learning and avoid repeating grades. During their end-of-year celebration, the girls confidently presented in English, thrilled to have passed and been promoted to the next grade. In partnership with Cohere in 2023, we have provided educational materials to 299 children, granted one-year scholarships to 35 children, distributed school shoes to 120 children, and donated three laptops to our beneficiary school to launch a Computer Studies class for the children.  Previously, 40% to 55% of the children often missed classes and examinations, resulting in grade repetition, but we have seen an incredible improvement since the implementation of our Back-to-Class project, with teachers reporting attendance rates of 85% to 90%. The children now feel loved, accepted, acknowledged, and welcome. This was the impact I aimed to achieve when we began, as I understand how consistent support can encourage and enhance learning. I, too, faced challenges in the past, lacking confidence and struggling with my English language skills and education. Today, I have participated in policy dialogues, panel discussions, advocacy workshops, and conferences. Now, I have the opportunity to instil that same confidence in the children supported by the Caring Hands Empowerment Foundation.   Sustaining Impact With Care Currently, our most significant challenge lies ahead in securing the necessary funding and resources and building sustainable partnerships.  These resources are critical not only for sustaining our current efforts but also for building a dedicated team that can help us expand our impact as we deepen our connection with our beneficiaries. Our long-term objective is to establish a dedicated space where children can engage in weekend sessions to enhance their learning across various subjects, discover and nurture their interests in extracurricular activities, and work towards achieving their goals.  We want to create a home where they can express themselves, learn, grow, develop and visualise their dreams. To build that home, we need all the support we can get.  

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Chrissie August 1, 2020

Divine Mugisha, founder of the refugee-led Supportive Pillar Organisation talks about her own hurdles in accessing education in Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi that motivated  her to help children in need accessing  through the power of storytelling to garner support.  By Divine Mugisha This story is part of the co-branded story series, ‘Rewriting the Narrative: Stories of & from Refugee & Community-Led Initiatives’ a collaborative effort between Samuel Hall, Youth Voices Community, Cohere, and Reframe Network. Members of various Refugee-Led and community-led Organisations part of the Reframe Network underwent an introductory training in storytelling and advocacy. They were then invited to share their personal narratives, capturing their journey, work, and the lasting impact of their initiatives. This collaboration aims not only to spotlight their incredible work but also to empower them with the skills to share their own stories effectively, fostering greater support, funding, and opportunities for their vital work.     My name is Divine Mugisha, and I am a 20-year-old on a mission. My roots trace back to the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi, and currently, I am pursuing my university education at the United States International University in Kenya. I proudly serve as the founder and executive director of the Supportive Pillar Organisation (SPO), a refugee-led organisation dedicated to enhancing the living conditions of refugees and underprivileged Malawians through improved access to education. Since our inception in 2021, SPO has made remarkable progress in fulfilling its mission. As of September 2023, we have facilitated the education of 41 students, conducted two impactful mentorship workshops, and provided essential school materials to 9 students. While I acknowledge that education does not guarantee instant success; for refugees and disadvantaged Malawians without the luxury of well-off parents, education becomes a crucial asset in securing a brighter future. This is why we remain unwavering in our commitment to supporting the most vulnerable students, ensuring their return to school, even if they must drop out due to financial hardships. My dream is to create a better world for young individuals who live in extreme poverty, individuals who harbour dreams and aspirations. I firmly believe that no one is destined to suffer; often, it's a matter of luck and circumstances that can turn life into a nightmare. My early life was like that, too! An Uphill Battle For Education Growing up in a refugee camp, I faced numerous challenges in accessing quality education. I completed both primary and secondary schooling within those same camp walls. The classroom environment left much to be desired, with overcrowded rooms and teachers needing more enthusiasm for educating refugees. I found it challenging to absorb much from these classes. Navigating the education system while handling household chores as a girl child was particularly tough. I had to rise as early as 2 a.m. to fetch water, followed by dishwashing and meal preparation before and after my classes. Despite these hardships, my determination to excel academically led me to carve out pockets of time for studying. I read while cooking while peeling potatoes, and even 30 minutes before embarking on my early morning water-fetching routine.  After 12 years, I completed my secondary education, ranking second in my school. It felt like I had achieved the highest position, even though my English grade was subpar. My parents could not afford to fund my education further, so I decided to pursue scholarship opportunities.  One such opportunity came from an international organisation. I completed the application process. However, I faltered during the interviews when I couldn't provide the "personal reasons for leaving my home country", despite clearly stating that I had left when I was just nine months old. Although my application was unsuccessful with the rejection note - "Apply again only when you have a different story" – it planted a seed of hope in me.  That's when I decided to take control of my own life. I understood that circumstances should not determine who I would become but who I could be. I reevaluated my vision, considering how I could lead a fulfilling life even within the confines of the refugee camp. It was then that I recognised my passion for helping others, extending beyond the mere tasks of daily life. Whether it was taking care of my friends, willingly tackling house chores even when they interfered with my education, tutoring my peers, teaching computer studies on Saturdays, or advocating for refugee rights in child parliament sessions—it was all driven by a desire to make a difference. I decided to co-found the Supportive Pillar Organisation with a like-minded friend. During this time, I learned about the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program and decided to apply. Thanks to my strong background in volunteering and leadership roles, I was selected to study at the United States International University Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. The feeling of finally securing a scholarship to leave the camp and embark on a journey to become a leader was beyond words.  However, as my excitement and aspirations soared, I encountered another challenge—the immigration office denied me a Conventional Travel Document (CTD). Months passed, and my situation remained unchanged. I visited the immigration office daily, even when the response was consistently negative. The more I tried, the more disheartening the situation became. I was shattered, but I refused to let depression define my future. I sought therapy and started taking antidepressants. This period taught me the virtues of persistence and tenacity - and finally in 2022, I was able to travel to Kenya to pursue my studies.  Today, education has transformed my life. I've transitioned from a girl with tattered uniforms to someone who can afford branded clothing. The escape from poverty and the ability to envision a life where I could meet my basic needs kept me going and allowed me to conquer adversity. Stories that Inspire Support: The Impact of the Supportive Pillar Organisation (SPO) Having a brilliant idea and effortlessly securing support was a mere illusion. Some may start with grants or big donors, but for others, it begins with doing what they love and believe in—Supportive Pillar Organisation. The journey of SPO commenced with two financially challenged young individuals. Initially, we believed applying for grants online would resolve all our financial challenges. Our projects depended on funding, and failing to pay our students' school fees would force them to return home, potentially forcing them out of school.  We also tried reaching out to people abroad to secure assistance, but unfortunately, most read our messages and then stopped responding. So, we began sharing the stories of these young individuals facing severe hardships, but our social media posts often needed more attention. We persisted, even though financial stability remained elusive - our passion kept us going.  We continued sharing our stories and gradually realised the power of storytelling. Given our limited resources, we couldn't single-handedly change lives, but we could advocate through stories. Stories have the power to connect potential sponsors with those in need. They convey reality and emotions, crucial in influencing decisions on who, what, where, and how to help.  I discovered two types of donors—those who initially want to engage in charity projects but need the right opportunity and those who are deeply moved by a specific story and are compelled to help, sometimes even convincing others to join the cause. Stories don't just bring sponsors; they also raise awareness about the issues surrounding a particular place and its people. As in life, no single organisation or individual can bring about comprehensive change. Various initiatives can address different aspects of a problem. For instance, while SPO focuses on secondary education, another organisation might support tertiary education or provide psychosocial assistance. This is why when telling stories, it's essential to depict the whole situation, making people aware of the overall context and then calling them to action to support your initiative. Through these efforts, we garnered support, and today, we assist more than 30 students, with an additional six having completed their secondary education and awaiting university transitions. We support students from all three regions of Malawi, including refugees in the North, Central, and South.  Furthermore, we are actively working on establishing a boarding school to offer a nurturing and conducive learning environment with high-quality education. This will enhance the academic performance of our students who currently attend public schools with subpar educational quality. This journey has taught me that greater things await those who persevere. By holding onto our dreams and aspirations, we can genuinely make a difference in the lives of those we aim to uplift. Dive into a quick visual journey of SPO: The Journey of SPO in Photos:    

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Chrissie August 1, 2020

At the crossroads of climate justice, skills development, and women's empowerment, Resilience Action International is crafting sustainable solutions for a greener environment and a brighter tomorrow. Gloria Mairura, RAI's Business Development and Communications Manager, interviews two programme participants to understand their impact and their message to the world. By Gloria Mairura This story is part of the co-branded story series, 'Rewriting the Narrative: Stories of & from Refugee and Community-Led Initiatives' a collaborative effort between Samuel Hall, Youth Voices Community, Cohere, and Reframe Network. Members of various Refugee and Community Led Organisations (RLOs) participating in the Reframe Network underwent an introductory training in storytelling and advocacy. They were then invited to share their personal narratives, capturing their journey, work, and the lasting impact of their initiatives. This collaboration aims not only to spotlight them but also to empower them with the skills to share their own stories effectively, fostering greater support, funding, and opportunities for their vital work. This story highlights one RLO’s work in Kakuma, Kenya on climate change - Samuel Hall seeks to elevate their voice and connect them to those who can support them in amplifying their social impact.     Climate migration has been and continues to be a significant factor contributing to migration in East Africa. Several young refugees recount experiences of climate-related migration as their first reason for leaving their homes.  This phenomenon also applies to those already within the camp, who find themselves displaced for a second or subsequent time within the camp, primarily due to natural disasters, such as flash floods or powerful winds in the Kakuma region. People here often struggle to make a living in ways that are different from what they were used to in their home countries. This challenge is particularly pronounced for those who previously worked as farmers, pastoralists, or fishermen and have had to adapt to life in hot and arid regions like the Turkana county - where Kakuma Refugee camp is located.  In an effort to resolve some of these issues, in 2010, Muzabel Welongo, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, established Resilience Action International (RAI) in Kakuma, Kenya. Over the years, RAI has earned a reputation as a refugee-led organisation by focusing on enhancing the economic resilience of youth.  Kakuma's challenging environment, characterised by a semi-arid climate with temperatures averaging 40 degrees Celsius and an annual rainfall average of 200mm, underscores the need for environmental conservation and sustainable, eco-friendly economic activities. RAI's economic empowerment initiatives are crucial steps toward mitigating the impacts of climate migration within the displaced Kakuma community. To address the lack of access to clean energy for refugees not connected to the national electricity grid, RAI, through its subsidiary Okapi Green Ltd, is distributing solar power to homes and small businesses in Kakuma 3. This initiative aims to replace costly and environmentally damaging alternatives like candles, diesel generators, and charcoal. I have always believed that climate change is a serious yet an often overlooked issue as refugees and asylum seekers in Kakuma face many challenges due to the climate crisis, in addition to their existing vulnerability. Working with RAI has given me the opportunity to connect with brilliant refugee youths and learn more about displacement first-hand. To assess and document their own influence, I, on behalf of RAI, engaged in conversations with two people from the camp to explore their personal journeys; the effect RAI has had on their lives and how they think international organisations can support community-led initiatives of green transition. Local Solutions For Global Problems: Interview with Ardiya -Ardiya (in a green Okapi shirt) demonstrating to learners how to operate a domestic solar kit in Kakuma 3 training centre. 27-year-old Aridya arrived in Kakuma in 2012 from Sudan. He currently works at Okapi Green Ltd as a Project Lead. Along with his teams, he provides training to youths in Kakuma refugee camp on operating and maintaining portable solar-powered kits for domestic use. Q1: Have you ever been forced to relocate due to extreme weather events? A: Yes, indeed. Part of the reason for our move to Kenya was the mudslides and frequent flooding in the lowland area of Sarbuye in Sudan. This area was known for its plantations and fruit trees but was prone to flooding due to rivers and streams that overflowed in rainy seasons. Villagers had to relocate to the higher hill region of Nuba Mountains to escape the devastation caused by mudslides and flooding on their livestock and animals. Following the mudslides, there was often a period of starvation as food crops and most domestic animals perished during the event or later due to hunger. At one point, even the village chief advised families to move out of the valley. Q2: How did this experience shape your life in Kakuma? A: Upon arriving at Kakuma refugee camp, we were allocated a piece of land in Kakuma 1, close to a seasonal stream that divided the camp. This larger stream collected rainwater from nearby secondary schools and the two smaller streams, causing flooding and impassable paths during heavy rains. In 2015, we moved to Kakuma 3 with the help of our block leader and camp authorities. I have adapted to the hot and dry climate in Kakuma, but I still struggle with the strong, dusty winds that can blow away roofs. I've seen neighbours lose their 'mabati' homes to these winds in Kalobeyei. Others have had to rebuild their brick houses after heavy downpours in the camp. We don't have many relocation options, so we have to manage as best as we can. Q3: How did you get involved with RAI and Okpai Green? A: I became aware of RAI, through public posters and colleagues who worked there. I was in high school at the time and would pass by the RAI centre in Kakuma 2 to visit friends. Additionally, I worked as a facilitator for RAI on a five-month project in 2022 before applying for a job with Okapi Green Ltd in 2023. I chose Okapi Green Ltd because its mission and vision aligned with my passion. I hold a bachelor's degree in Education in Mathematics and Physics from Kenyatta University, and Okapi had the right job for me. Furthermore, I have the opportunity to facilitate workshops and witness physics in action through solar power technology. It's remarkable how simple technology can generate significant power without harming the environment. Q4: How has RAI influenced your thoughts on Climate Migration? A: Working with Okapi Green Ltd,  to promote the use of renewable energy in homes and small businesses has shown me how ordinary people can access clean and natural power. It's my hope that I can apply this knowledge back in Sudan, where we could harness floodwaters to generate power, much like we've harnessed the sunny weather in Kakuma for a positive purpose. Additionally, I'm interested in pursuing a master's degree in  natural sciences in the near future. I've come to believe that both for-profit and nonprofit organisations should adopt environmentally friendly strategies and structures in their activities to reduce harm and protect the environment in the areas where they operate. "Youths are the drivers of change. It's up to us to be creative in adopting and developing conservation measures that protect the environment and our homes." Q5: What efforts do you see the refugee communities and RLOs making in the camp around climate change and mobility and how can the international community support them? I have seen local organisations within Kakuma refugee camp working with the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) to assist people affected by strong winds and flooding in the camp to build sturdy shelters that can withstand extreme winds and heavy rainfall without disintegrating or leaking. Furthermore,  RLOs are collaborating with small self-help groups and communities affected by flooding and impassable roads. They are working together to dig ditches that divert flood water away from residences, preventing the need for repeat relocations each time the rainy season begins. Refugee communities in Kakuma 3 are exploring and adopting renewable energy technologies from local CBOs, such as solar power from Okapi Green Energy Ltd. By doing this, we hope to reduce reliance on non renewable fuels such as candles, kerosene, and charcoal by refugee locals at home and in their shops. I think various organisations can help the refugee leaders with climate change. They can fund and teach youths necessary skills to implement and sustain climate projects in Kakuma. It's a good idea for them to work with RLOs for more grassroots level impact. After all, we're all working together towards the same goal, that is, to stay safe from climate changes." No Climate Justice Without Gender Equality: Interview with Sharlotte   (Sharlotte awarding her student in the reproductive health class with a certificate and sanitary towel wrapped in a brown envelope) Sharlotte Lotombo, a 23-year-old student currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree at Kenyatta University in Nairobi arrived in Kenya in 2010 with her family. They had fled the Democratic Republic of Congo due to civil unrest and challenging living conditions. Sharlotte joined RAI as a volunteer after completing high school in 2022. Later that year, she transitioned to a staff role facilitating Sexual and Reproductive Health due to her outstanding work performance in the department.  Q1 Have you ever had to move because of extreme weather events? Yes, indeed. In DR Congo, we lived in Baraka Province near a river. Heavy rains came after several months of drought, causing floods in our village. Along with our neighbours, we had to move to higher ground because our house was flooded, and some villagers lost their possessions and crops. I kept in touch with some neighbours and learned that some had migrated to neighbouring countries. The flooding destroyed crops and granaries, and many farm animals drowned. Survivors faced food shortages and starvation, both for themselves and their animals. Q2: How did this experience affect your life in Kakuma? I remember Baraka Province being lush and green, a stark contrast to Kakuma, which is dry and windy year-round. DR Congo is a very green country, so moving here was quite different. In 2010, Kakuma had few trees, especially in the camp, so we felt the full force of the sun and wind.  However,  Kakuma has changed since I arrived. The camp has more trees and shrubs due to tree-planting initiatives led by the refugee community and non-profits. This gives us shade and helps us escape the hot weather. Q3: What made you choose RAI for your personal and career development? I first heard about RAI in 2016. They ran a Youth Reproductive Health program at my primary school, and I joined it. I was trained to be a peer educator when I was in class 7.  RAI's sexual and reproductive health (SRH) program helped me complete my basic education. It taught me about abstinence, self-confidence, and self-understanding as an adolescent. I realised that my life is in my hands, and I have the power to influence it. My strong connection with RAI deepened when its founder, Muzabel Welongo, visited my home in 2016, spoke with my mother, and convinced her to let me join the SRH program and become a peer educator.  In 2022, I volunteered with RAI for three months after high school and worked as a Youth Reproductive Health facilitator for another five months. RAI opened my eyes to new career and education opportunities beyond the camp and gave me a deeper understanding of the refugee community and human rights. Q4: How has RAI influenced your thoughts on Climate Migration? RAI has shown me how climate change and women empowerment are connected. I learned that women have more difficulties in coping with and migrating from climate disasters, due to their heavy childcare responsibilities and limited resources. They also face more legal, social, and physical risks when they are displaced by floods or droughts.  Therefore, RAI’s sexual education and community campaigns are vital for young women and girls. They teach them their rights, and how to protect themselves and their children in times of crisis. RAI sexual and reproductive health and vocational education keeps girls in school which exposes them to climate action programs such as environmental clubs and leadership labs. This way, they can become future champions in fighting climate change alongside women’s rights. My experience with RAI encouraged me to think creatively and understand that creating a positive impact in society is a collective effort, not an individual one. I believe that global warming, worsened by increased carbon emissions, especially in towns and industrial areas, has contributed to the unpredictable weather patterns we experience today. People should collaborate to plant trees and care for the environment, ensuring a better future where no one is forced to leave their homes. “I believe you can plant a tree but if you don't take good care of the tree, it will die. On the other hand, if you plant  a tree and take care of it, it will grow. That is what we as youths, should do.’’ Q5: What efforts do you see the refugee communities and RLOs making in the camp around climate change and mobility and how can the international community support them? The community has been taking  various efforts of planting trees in homesteads, next to kiosks or in eateries to keep the area cool, and break strong winds notorious for demolishing rooftops. Some of the tree seedlings come from local CBOs that have nurseries within the area. Also, the RLOs here help us in harvesting rainwater in the dry seasons by training families and kitchen garden owners on the skills and tools needed to make this possible. They have taught us how deforestation can harm us and our environment, and how we can grow crops and trees that prevent soil erosion and keep the river’s tributaries banks from expanding. The international community can support RLOs by working together with them to carry out the ongoing projects in the camp. Great work is being done  by refugees, but local initiatives lack the financial muscle to boost the projects. I believe foreigners can benefit and learn from us by working with RLOs’  

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Chrissie August 1, 2020

Andias and Angela - both refugees in Kenya - team up to discuss the importance of localised mentorship for girls. By McCreadie Andias, Communications Manager, Nawezaa   This story is part of the co-branded story series, 'Rewriting the Narrative: Stories of & from Refugee and Community-Led Initiatives' a collaborative effort between Samuel Hall, Youth Voices Community, Cohere, and Reframe Initiative. Members of various Refugee-Led Organisations (RLOs) participating in the Reframe Initiative underwent an introductory training in storytelling and advocacy. They were then invited to share their personal narratives, capturing their journey, work, and the lasting impact of their initiatives. This collaboration aims not only to spotlight their incredible work but also to empower them with the skills to share their own stories effectively, fostering greater support, funding, and opportunities for their vital work. This story highlights one RLO’s work in Nairobi on mentorship - Samuel Hall seeks to elevate their voice and connect them to those who can support them in amplifying their social impact. Twenty years ago, Angela Jean left her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)  as a baby - with no understanding of her sudden transition or what destiny awaited hert. Her father had gone ahead to Kenya in 2003, striving to find a safe place for his family amidst the escalating civil unrest in the DRC, which, according to UNHCR, had compelled nearly 1 million people to flee their homes in search of safety. When they reunited in Kenya, life was challenging, with obstacles such as renting and adapting to the new surroundings. Even the Congolese accent felt like a burden. "Congolese have that accent that, when they speak Swahili, you immediately know they don't belong here." For Angela, who lives with her parents at Kabiria, a small village in Nairobi, this accent was like a ticket to estrangement.  However, life began to find a semblance of normalcy when she enrolled at Ngong Forest Primary School in Nairobi. She started her education hoping to reshape the future of her family and community. Angela recalls that at Ngong Forest Primary School, where she and her brother were students, nobody knew of their refugee status at first. Her peers and even the teachers treated her just like any other Kenyan student simply because they were unaware of her background. "Everything changed in class six when my dad visited our school for the first time. That visit revealed to my teachers and classmates that we were not Kenyans," Angela shared.  Angela and her brother faced challenges. Their academic success sparked jealousy among some classmates, who felt overshadowed. "They seemed to think we had come to outdo them," Angela observed. She recalls a particularly difficult day in class six during a lesson on creation. "The teacher asked us to divide into groups based on our tribes. I was the only refugee in the class and found myself alone." Returning home in tears, Angela confided in her sister, "I don't want to return to that school. I don't feel like I belong there. I want to go home,” she said, questioning if being a refugee was a crime. This incident deeply affected Angela, leading to depression and impacting her remaining time at primary school. When the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams approached, an unexpected hurdle arose. Although the KCPE exams, marking the transition from primary to high school, are typically free for every pupil regardless of tribe or origin, Angela was asked to bring 800 shillings to sit for the exams because of her refugee status. When Angela inquired about this charge, the head teacher bluntly asked, "Did I ask you to become a refugee?" Angela feels that this remark made her fail her exams.  Despite her challenges, a still bright and determined Angela eventually progressed to high school, aspiring to become a doctor. Throughout her high school journey, Angela attended three different schools. The first two provided relief, as they had many refugee students from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Burundi. This environment made her feel more secure, surrounded by individuals with whom she shared similar backgrounds and stories. "It has been tough being a refugee, it made me into a liar" Angela's experience at her third high school was particularly challenging, especially during business classes. "How is the Congolese currency?" her teacher would jokingly ask another Congolese student, sparking laughter and mockery in the classroom. Interestingly, most students and teachers at this school were unaware of her refugee status. They assumed she was from the Kikuyu tribe of Kenya, as she spoke the language fluently, having spent 19 years in the country. However, Angela still felt deep sadness and empathy when her fellow Congolese were ridiculed in class.  To cope with this environment, Angela found herself concealing her true nationality."I used to tell my classmates that I'm Tanzanian. I had to hide my origin," she reveals. After completing high school, Angela joined Refushe, an organisation dedicated to empowering refugee girls. This period of her life was particularly challenging, as she was the sole provider of her family. "My dad was working as a senior pastor at an ACK church. He had a stark choice: work under a Kenyan or resign. Feeling disgraced, he left the job.” Angela, already burdened by failed relationships and family struggles, found herself grappling with deep depression. She felt like an empty shell, struggling to find something to hold onto. "I felt like nobody wanted me or my family," she expressed. The combined weight of her father losing his job, her family's dire situation, and her own experiences of alienation drove her to a point where she contemplated ending her life. With pills in hand, ready to give up, she paused to consider the impact on her family: "What would my parents think of me? Would this solve our problems?" It was her strong relationship with her father that proved pivotal. Turning to him in her despair, he offered perspective and support. "Life has been tough since Congo," he reminded her. Her father then shared that her mother had suffered five miscarriages while they were fleeing the civil war in the DRC. This insight into her family's resilience in adversity was sobering. "One day, we will fight for our country, and we won't have to be called refugees anymore," her father encouraged her. Yet, Angela couldn't help but wonder when that day would come. An (Unsustainable) Opportunity At that time, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) was offering startup funding for businesses run by refugees. Angela, who had previously believed that refugees were solely dependent on aid, eagerly seized this opportunity. Although, her initial application was rejected, weeks later, she was recalled by the IRC and granted Ksh 56,000 for her business startup. Angela used Ksh 30,000 of this funding to pay off her father's debts. She also realised she had to change her plans: local government regulations prevented refugees from obtaining business permits, barring her from running a business freely.  With the remaining Ksh 26,000, Angela ventured into an online business, shipping clothes abroad. This endeavour ultimately failed due to insufficient capital for stocking inventory, bringing her family's financial situation back to square one. Angela addresses a common misconception within the host community: the belief that refugees are financially well-off. She explains how the local population often assumes that refugees have substantial funds, believing they receive significant financial support from the UNHCR and other organisations. Moreover, she points out that refugees often face even more significant challenges, as they typically lack formal and sustainable sources of livelihood, making their financial struggles more pronounced. On the contrary, Angela believes that refugees living in urban areas are not receiving adequate support from the UNHCR, feeling that the focus is disproportionately on those in refugee camps. She asserts that this leaves urban refugees feeling abandoned and segregated. Dwindling Hopes for the Future When asked if there is real hope for her future, Angela can't help but feel a tinge of sadness. This stems from her perception of limited prospects for growth and achieving her dreams. Angela contemplates that if an opportunity to work abroad and support her family doesn't materialise, she might consider marrying a Kenyan.  But why a Kenyan, specifically? Angela's reasoning is deeply rooted in cultural dynamics. She understands that in many African cultures, the children of a mixed-tribe couple are typically identified with the father's tribe. Therefore, Angela hopes to secure a Kenyan nationality for her future children by marrying a Kenyan citizen. This, she believes, would spare them from the  rejection, mockery,  exclusion, and abuse she endured due to her refugee status and her mother's origins. Angela's story resonates with thousands of other refugee girls who have endured similar hardships.. They often lack mentorship to overcome stigma and depression, and require guidance to handle the heavy and early responsibilities thrust upon them. Nawezaa - Localising Support Through Mentorship Nawezaa is a youth-led refugee organisation established in Dagoretti, Nairobi. A Swahili word that means 'I Can,' Nawezaa inspires youths to believe in the possibility of achieving their dreams.  Established in 2020, Nawezaa is actively involved in various activities, including providing Sexual Reproductive Health training to empower refugee youths, writing and publishing inspiring stories about their experiences, and conducting media interviews to raise awareness about refugee projects. Additionally, Nawezaa offers sports mentorship through the 'Refugee United in Sports (RUIS)' Programme and engages in advocacy work to support and represent refugee interests effectively. It runs with a mission to give a voice to refugees and share their stories while empowering, guiding, supporting, and mentoring girls like Angela. Nawezaa's mentorship program is tailored to the needs of girls who have experienced the hardships of displacement. It addresses their needs through support and awareness for menstrual health, pad drive initiatives, and girl-talk sessions. These efforts aim to support, encourage, mentor, and guide young girls, helping them find hope, survival, and growth amidst their challenges. One of Nawezaa's initiatives, the sexual reproductive health training titled 'She-world', was conducted in April this year. It equipped participants, including Angela, with skills, ideas, and knowledge to address issues faced by refugee girls, often neglected due to barriers in local systems.  The three-day training impacted 300 girls with experiences of forced displacement. It covered a range of topics, including business startups, relationship and sexuality guidance, managing issues like early pregnancies and miscarriages, menstrual education, self-awareness, combating stigma in schools, and coping with home challenges. Angela shares that she gained invaluable experience from Nawezaa's She-world project. She had previously conflated contraceptives with family planning but now understands their differences. Reflecting on her mother's five miscarriages, she believes that increased awareness and knowledge of sexual and reproductive health could help reduce or prevent such incidents. Such support could mean Angela and others wouldn't feel resigned to marriage as their sole path to identity, survival, or mental well-being. Rather than viewing marriage to a citizen as the only option, mentorship can provide alternative avenues for empowerment and self-realisation. Initiatives like Nawezaa's can equip girls with the knowledge and tools to tackle their challenges and those affecting their families. However, Nawezaa faces operational and funding obstacles. The organisation lacks  a formal office setup, limiting engagements with potential partners, and is missing a primary funding source to secure their activities over the long term To fulfill the potential of Nawezaa, we are searching for partners to provide us with digital equipment such as laptops for writing and editing stories, podcast equipment for shows, capacity-building training to enhance staff expertise, partnerships for media engagements and projects, and funding to establish and maintain office space. As an organisation, we are committed to making the Angelas of the world feel loved, protected, cared for, and supported. This approach nurtures their individual growth and contributes to a more inclusive and empathetic society.  

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