“Rise and make the most of it”

Children hold up an antenna to better receive the TEDx broadcast in Kakuma refugee camp. All photos: TEDx

TEDx talk from Kakuma refugee camp highlights talents and contributions of refugees

(LWI) - “When you move from a war zone, and come to a secure place like Kakuma, you have really gone far,” said Mary Maker, a teacher in Kakuma refugee camp while speaking at the TEDx Kakuma Camp event on 9 June. Mary alongside other speakers at the event painted an image of Kakuma as a place refugees refer to as a place of hope. TEDxKakuma was watched live by over 3,000 refugees from different locations in the camp and agency staff in different centers.

Teacher Mary Maker presented Kakuma refugee camp as a place which also holds opportunities.

Make a difference in the region

The Kakuma refugee camp is based in the heart of Turkana County in the north western part of Kenya. Founded in 1992 to shelter the “lost boys”, former child soldiers from the Sudanese civil war, the camp subsequently became a safe haven for people fleeing the nearby conflicts in Somalia, Democratic republic of Congo, Eritrea, and South Sudan. The camp neighbors the Kalobeyei settlement which is an integrated society between refugees and host community members from the Turkana West Sub-county. The camp and settlement are now home to over 185,000 refugees from more than 15 nationalities.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) was there from the beginning, and currently manages education in the camp. Generations of young people in Kakuma have gone through refugee schools managed by LWF, the students to perform extremely well in the Kenyan national exams for primary students. LWF also started to work with students with special needs, and offers income-generating and livelihood activities.

The refugees engage in various sports, trade and agricultural activities while in the camp. Some of them have been initiated by LWF, such as “Kakuma Got Talent” and the “Kakuma Premier League” soccer teams, which have give young men and women a chance to develop talents in arts and sports and sometimes even secure a new life outside the camp.

“Although living in a country where legal policies on free movement and employment do not favor them, still they rise and make the most of it,” Lennart Hernander, LWF Country Representative in Kenya, says. “This is the case with the speakers at TEDx Kakuma Camp”. The panel consisted of refugees living in Kakuma, resettled refugees, specialists in social economy, psychology, musicians and poets.

Policy of integration

Economist Arpuva Sanghi highlights the contributions refugees can make to local development.

“Refugees have contributed a 3.5 percent increase in economic growth within the Turkana County,” said economist Arpuva Sanghi, who spoke at the event. Although the increase may seem minimal, in Turkana County it makes a difference because it also has an effect on job creation. In his speech he outlined the difference between governments employing the policy of encampment versus a policy of economic integration of refugees. A policy of integration would increase average incomes of the local community by 9 percent, while encampment would lead to a reduction of economic output by 3 percent, Apurva said. “A more productive refugee is also better positioned to contribute to their country upon return.”

Filmmaker and women’s rights advocate Amina Rwimo has won international recognition.

Amina Rwimo, a filmmaker in Kakuma described her experience how she came to be a film director. Her films address the issues on female genital mutilation and sexual and gender-based violence. They have won accolades in Kenya and have been nominated for awards in Rwanda as well.

Kenya, the host to these refugees has laid out various measures in order to improve the economy, the governor of Turkana County, Hon. Josephat Nanok, stated during the event. He outlined how in the county planning processes, he laid out an integrated approach for the benefit of the refugees and the host community.

The governor of Turkana County, Josephat Nanok, also participated in the event.

TEDx Kakuma Camp to the world has presented facts that are shaping the notion of refugees differently, effecting change no matter how small, Professor Paul Slovic said. “For those of you who are refugees, let us hear about your stories, your struggles and your achievements. This helps us not to think of you as only a statistic.”

Professor Paul Slovic encourages refugees to share their stories.

The event was well attended with representation from the donor community, government representatives, ambassadors and various aid agencies working in Kakuma refugee camp.



By Glory-Ann Kathure, LWF Kenya-Djibouti. Edited by LWF communications.