KENYA: Salesian Missionaries Provide Hope, Education and Nutrition to Youth in Kakuma Refugee Camp
(MissionNewswire) As of the end of May, Kakuma refugee camp, located in northern Kenya near the Uganda and South Sudan borders, is caring for 155,477 refugees from 20 different countries, according to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. The majority of refugees at the camp, more than 44 percent, are from South Sudan and arrived after escaping conflict and violence.
Kakuma is operated by UNHCR in collaboration with Salesian missionaries in the country as well as several other humanitarian organizations. The camp offers refugees safety, security and life-saving services such as housing, health care, clean water and sanitation. As some of the world’s most vulnerable youth, young refugees often survive devastating violence and a struggle to find food and shelter only to find themselves in refugee camps with little opportunity for education. Many arrive with few means of supporting themselves and no sustainable livelihood.
Salesian missionaries at Kakuma refugee camp operate the Holy Cross Parish and the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center where 1,044 young men and women are receiving critical employment and life skills. There are many courses available and those studying welding, carpentry and bricklaying often utilize their new skills helping to build infrastructure within the camp.
“Don Bosco Vocational Training Center is the only formal technical training center in the Kakuma refugee camp,” says Father Luke Mulayinkal, who oversees the Salesian work at Kakuma. “There are so many who are being prepared for a livelihood and for nation building in their home countries or in the countries in which they will be settled. At the end of their year studies, the students receive a Kenya Government Certificate which holds much value for the refugees.”
With a recent influx of refugees into the camp and a need for technical education, the Salesian missionaries at Kakuma are struggling to meet the demands of students seeking training. The goal, if funding can be secured, is to reopen a second technical training center which had closed in 2008 when the camp population shrunk to 20,000 as a result of many refugees being able to return to their homes. The camp started growing again in 2011, and has increased in population each year, putting a strain on programming and creating a need to reopen previously offered services. Today, students must wake very early in the morning and walk a few miles to get to the Don Bosco Center. Many others must wait until there is room in the training programs to accommodate them.
Salesian missionaries at the camp also operate the Helping Children to be Children program, which gathers refugee children and leads them in games, songs and classes held outdoors on the camp grounds. Children are also offered the opportunity to draw and learn to speak English. Close to 3,000 children benefit from this Salesian program, which currently has no steady funding and is run primarily by refugee volunteers.
At Kakuma, refugees often do not have the money to buy nutritious food or milk and many children go without milk for a very long time. On the occasions the Helping Children to be Children program gains access to funding, it purchases balls for the children’s games as well as biscuits, sweets and milk for the refugees. Recent funding allowed the Salesian programs to provide milk to the children at the camp as well as a cabbage each to 225 families.
“Since the influx of refugees, the Salesians have many needs here,” adds Fr. Mulayinkal. “We need to expand our services to meet the growing demand for shelter, nutrition, education, social support and infrastructure to run our programs. Right now we do what we can for as many as we can but the demand continues to grow.”
Recently, Salesians at Kakuma began building a new chapel for the refugees. Once completed, it will be the sixth Salesian chapel at the camp and will be used as place of prayer and social support. An additional $10,000 is need to complete the project.
Headquartered in New Rochelle, NY, Salesian Missions—the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco—has launched a donation appeal to aid this project as well as ongoing humanitarian assistance for those displaced. As the Salesians in Kenya continue to provide safety and shelter for displaced families, they are reaching out for support so they may continue to help those in need.
To give to the relief efforts helping those in need throughout Africa, go to SalesianMissions.org and select “African Crisis Emergency Fund” on the donate page.
Salesian Missions – Kenya