Opening day at the new Child Resource Center.
Conflict, consistent drought, and widespread poverty in East Africa have left more than 22 million people in need of assistance to acquire adequate food. The ongoing civil conflict in South Sudan has especially exacerbated refugee crises and food shortages throughout the region. While 2018 received heavy regional rains that benefited cropland, the flooding was also devastating for individuals and livestock, causing widespread damage and intensifying local needs. Furthermore, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network has predicted that 2019 will see further erosion of household income, purchasing power, and food security, with widespread implications for millions in Yemen, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan.
40km northwest of Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement exists to help accommodate the severe overflow of refugees at the nearby camp. Both the settlement and the camp consistently increase in size as families flee from neighboring countries, including South Sudan, Burundi, and Rwanda. For many refugees, life in the camp or settlement is the only life they know. IsraAID continues to work in both Kakuma and Kalobeyei, focusing its efforts on empowering women and youth, offering support to the most vulnerable within the camp.
Dozens of community members and representatives from our partners, including the Latter Day Saints Charities, gathered at the recent opening of a new Child Resource Center in Kalobeyei! Annet, the IsraAID Field Coordinator at the camp and settlement, commenced the ceremony with enthusiastic remarks. The road to the opening of the Child Resource Center in Village III of Kalobeyei had been paved with growing pains and challenges. Nevertheless, the collective desire of everyone involved to create a child-friendly environment in Village III had fueled the perseverance of the community. As Annet spoke, I scanned the audience. The newly built Center was full of excited individuals, but nearly all of them were men. The gender composition of the room was an unexpected shock. Every time I had seen a child with an adult, it was his or her mother. I was encouraged to see the men so eager to engage in matters of child protection.
The event continued with remarks from our various partners. Eventually, I noticed that the center was becoming a bit noisy. Not only was there an increase in volume, there was also a shift in the energy of the room. It didn’t take me long to identify the source—a crowd of children had formed just outside, and accompanying the children, their mothers. The women might have been late for any number of reasons. Perhaps they were occupied caring for their young children, or maybe had some chores to finish before joining the ceremony.
Groups of kids peeked into the Child Resource Center to catch a glimpse of the action. Though they might not understand the mechanics of the Center’s construction, the children seemed to understand that this place had been created for them. The speakers remarked about the importance of Child Resource Centers, not just for their role in bringing the community together, but for their ability to safeguard the refugees’ hopes for the future. While many refugees have come to terms with spending their entire lives in Kakuma or Kalobeyei, they’re wholeheartedly hopeful that their children will have access to more. The establishment of a safe space for children to simply be children serves as a foundation for this hope.
Thank you for your support!
Yunny is currently attending George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. She is one of two IsraAID Humanitarian Fellows volunteering in Kenya for summer 2019.
Cutting the ribbon at the Child Resource Center.