Kakuma refugee camp touches me: is this the heart of my mission?

This has been on my bucket list for a while: to Kakuma, the infamous refugee camp in Northern Kenya, close to the border with South Sudan. I wanted to see the camp with my own eyes: taste the dust, feel how hot it is there, the endless desert plain, barbed wire fences. And above all, I wanted to get in touch with the people who live there.

Kakuma has been there since 1991. In fact, there are 6 large camps that together accommodate about 180,000 refugees.

It was January 16th, 2019. The director of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) in Kenya had booked tickets for us with a flight from the UN. The UNHCR plane brought us to the camp so that we could make a meaningful visit in one day. An hour and a half flight over 600 km.

Fried eggs

We were welcomed by Norbert, the program director of JRS, early in the morning it wasn’t that hot yet. We were received in the austere office with a few trees, they had prepared a breakfast of bread with fried eggs and tea. Norbert explained that JRS has been operating in Kakuma since 1992. Meanwhile, many NGOs are active, each has responsibility for a specific area, JRS provides education, which is what the Jesuits are known for. 

Me and my Africolt co-founder Eric Mwangi in Kakuma

In Kakuma, JRS has 4 programs: Protection, Psychosocial, Special Needs, and Education. They mainly care for the weaker among the refugees. We visited a school for retarded children with their mothers. 

My interest was especially in Education: it turned out that JRS, in collaboration with Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL), has a university program where the first 28 bachelor students have recently obtained their grades.

We discussed how we could work together, offering young graduates an online job as a consultant for Africolt. 

Strengthened mission

The people who have fled from Sudan, Congo, Ethiopia, or Somalia sometimes have to stay in Kakuma for decades.

Not me, I flew back to Nairobi the same day, which seems like heaven on earth compared to Kakuma. But reinforced in my mission: to make the lives of at least some of the refugees there more bearable. Prospect of meaningful work and income. I still see many problems and challenges, but not nearly as insurmountable as those of my fellow human beings there.

I am deeply grateful to have been to Kakuma, and to be back to start something good…

As human beings, we are here to make the world a little more beautiful, better. I personally use my talent and expertise. I am curious about what you let yourself be affected by and how you do something with it. Feel free to respond!

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