Global Refugee Fund

by IsraAID
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund
Global Refugee Fund

In the aftermath of a disaster, a school is often anything but a place for education. It can be a shelter, a food distribution center, or a meeting place for humanitarian actors and community organizations, leaving the typical users of the building – the students – without a place to learn. Children affected by emergencies experience a rapid change in circumstances which can lead to long-term trauma. They may have been displaced, lost family members, or their parents may have been left without a source of income. And on top of that, now their daily routine at school is disrupted.

For refugees in Greece, education is more than learning skills for the future. It’s about integrating into society, now. Many children from refugee communities are registered in the public education system, but despite this, they are often not familiar with basic math concepts or even numbers. One significant factor is the type of classes they attend. Refugee and migrant children are sent to integration classes specific to their needs, aimed to rapidly teach Greek. But this means they’re missing out on other subjects. With extensive bureaucratic requirements, mixed migrant children in Colombia, many of whom arrived in the country recently from Venezuela, are left in a similar situation, often excluded from the mainstream system without much investment in their talents.

How can refugee and migrant children fully integrate without something as simple as good math education?

Over the last six months, IsraAID has been partnering with an Israeli start-up company, Imagine Machine, which developed Mathika, an online mathematics application to help children self-teach. Mathika is part of IsraAID’s joint pilot fund with the Pears Program for Global Innovation. It allows a teacher to track where they are and offer support, while also encouraging the child to move at their own pace, thereby reinforcing lessons that perhaps were lost. Through this program, our teams in Colombia and in Greece were able to boost children’s skills in this critically important subject.

Mathematics shouldn’t be a privilege, but a right.

IsraAID Greece’s integration program involves much more than the Greek language. It addresses the gap between refugee and migrant communities and the local Greek community, the team’s biggest concern being the integration of children as equal members of society. Improving the math knowledge of refugee and migrant children, the Mathika pilot program felt like a gift to these children, another tool to help achieve integration.

Under-educating the children of today is failing to prepare the leaders of tomorrow. The best investment a country can make in its future is in the education for all its inhabitants, but without appropriate skills and training, displaced communities like those in Greece and Colombia are more likely to get stuck in the poverty cycle. Just being told that they can learn and knowing they have the option to challenge themselves can significantly boost children’s self-esteem. IsraAID’s educational frameworks around the globe seek to combat this issue, offering innovative solutions like Mathika.

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Last week, President Duque of Colombia announced that each and every Venezuelan living in Colombia will be granted protective status by the government. This is a huge breakthrough for the 1.7 million migrants living here today. It is also a historic moment of recognition for Venezuelans, who are currently the world’s second largest displaced group.

As inflation and unrest mounted in neighboring Venezuela, entire communities were forced to leave their homes. Many walked across the border to Colombia, where only 40% held legal status. This posed a major barrier to accessing even basic social services and kept legal employment out of reach. IsraAID is one organization among many working to fill these gaps and ensure that communities are able to build a better future for themselves, but collaboration between public, private, and non-profit organizations is essential to truly provide the support that is needed.

This influx of new arrivals exacerbated ongoing challenges in Colombia. The country has an unemployment rate in the double digits, which increased dramatically during the pandemic. Limited resources in education, in health care, and in other social services buoyed xenophobia. People crossing the border arrive with serious medical concerns including high rates of malnutrition, while also coping with the emotional stress of leaving their home and rebuilding their lives.

This historic announcement is a gamechanger for our daily work here in Barranquilla, where our teams provide education services, psychosocial support, and livelihood opportunities for these communities. One major issue we faced previously was in providing job training for new arrivals: 60% of Venezuelans did not have the right to work legally. In light of this, we could only provide employment support for the minority who did hold work permits. This often left out those most vulnerable.

It may also affect the composition of our staff team itself. Employing members of displaced communities is a key part of IsraAID’s approach. Now, with legal status available to all Venezuelans, we may be able to hire more Venezuelan staff members than we would have before.

Another example is in education. Our Child Friendly Spaces have been operating for close to two years now, providing a transitionary framework for children before they start in Colombian schools. Previously, children who did not have legal documentation were not eligible for public school. While there were many success stories of overcoming this bureaucratic challenge—and we are incredibly proud of the 85% of our students who did start in public schools—there were always going to be children that would never be able to move on from our program.

The role of our Child Friendly Spaces is now more important than ever. In addition to the legal barrier facing Venezuelan children, enrolling in the public school system requires proof of previous grade completion. Many children from Venezuela were out of the formal education system for multiple years, which created a significant academic gap. Our Child Friendly Spaces’ targeted curriculum streamlines their preparation for the public school system. Now that all children will be legally eligible to enroll, our academic services are even more critical, and will be able to support even more children.

While this announcement will help to push forward integration, additional support is needed to leverage the immense potential it holds. Our teams are preparing to launch awareness raising campaigns to reach currently undocumented Venezuelans and help them step by step through the process to gain legal protection.

The other enormous challenge ahead of us is addressing the social and cultural aspects of this change. While legal integration is confirmed, social integration is not. Combating xenophobia and promoting diversity is critical in this moment—to build a better future for all in our communities. Now that Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia have been granted legal status, this work comes next. We at IsraAID Colombia are excited to play our part.

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Overnight on September 8th, fires ravaged through the Moria Refugee Camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, the largest of its kind in Europe. Over the course of the following 24-48 hours, the majority of the camp was burned down. More than 12,000 refugees - mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria - were left without a place to sleep or access to vital services provided by humanitarian actors, including hygiene supplies and education for children.

In the days leading up to the fires, there had been 35 positive cases of COVID-19 reported among the population of Moria. Since the destruction of the camp, cases have continued to rise. Social distancing and safe hygiene practices became even more challenging as people slept on the sides of the road and in orchards.

The Greek government has constructed a temporary camp on Lesbos, which currently accommodates 9,600 people. The living conditions in Moria were harsh, with minimal access to necessary services, but the infrastructure in the new camp is even more limited.

IsraAID has been working in Lesbos for five years and our team on the ground was able to respond immediately. Despite severely restricted access to both Moria and the new temporary camp, we were able to distribute essential non-food items together with partner organizations and IsraAID team members who lived in the camp. IsraAID’s team distributed tents, sleeping bags, and power banks; 1,500 personal hygiene kits including soap, hand sanitizer and reusable face masks made at our refugee community center in northern Greece; in addition to 182 family hygiene kits and 25 baby packs to families living around the site of the old camp.

IsraAID’s ongoing program in Lesbos focuses on expanding access to education for refugee children. In addition to focusing on meeting urgent physical needs after the fire, our team has worked to provide psychosocial and education support for children affected by the emergency. We have distributed 500 activity and education packs for children aged 2-6 and 7-12 inside the temporary camp. The packs include arts and crafts materials, worksheets and activity books that work as a psychosocial support aid for children. Interventions like these are crucial to mitigating the potential psychological effects of traumatic experiences.

IsraAID has also launched a capacity building program for refugee teachers from our educational facility adjacent to Moria. With themes like “stress management”, “health, hygiene and safety”, “child protection”, and “psychological first aid”, the program provides teachers with the resources and knowledge to support their students – and themselves – at this difficult time. Each member of the refugee community has already suffered their own trauma; capacity building supports them in building themselves as individuals, as well as a community.

 

N., 25 years old, is a refugee from Afghanistan. N. teaches at IsraAID’s Secret Garden Educational Center, providing social and emotional learning in Dari for children from Afghanistan.

N. had this to say about their role as a teacher: “Teaching for me is like a painkiller, it allows me to forget the pain, everything that bothers me and doesn’t let me feel okay. When I walk into the classroom, I feel so much energy from the children that I can’t allow myself to be down, it makes me focus and put myself together. I am looking forward to resuming our classes with kids from the camp.”

N. has been taking part in IsraAID’s capacity building program for teachers, learning new techniques to better support children from the refugee community after the fires.

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How do we get through this crisis? It’s the question on everyone’s lips. By now, we’re used to hearing – and following – all the key messages. Stay inside. Keep at least two meters away from anyone else. Wash. Your. Hands.

But what happens in places where these important public health instructions aren’t just a shift in lifestyle, they’re basically impossible? That is the reality for many of the world’s refugees.

In Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya, home to more than 190,000 refugees who have fled conflict across the region, water is in short supply. IsraAID runs three safe spaces in the camp offering daily activities, education and – crucially – safe water for children. The new regulations brought in to help control the spread of the virus have forced our team to temporarily suspend these activities. But without these safe spaces, many children in the camp will be at greater risk. Add to that severe shortages of medical facilities and personnel and it’s clear that a coronavirus outbreak in Kakuma could be devastating.

Thousands of miles north of Kakuma, the Greek island of Lesbos is one of the main entry points to Europe for refugees fleeing conflict and political persecution in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Many of them end up in Moria Refugee Camp. More than 20,000 people have been pushed into a camp designed for just over 3,000. The day-to-day potential for harm has now been coupled with the risks of a global pandemic, and fears about a potential outbreak in Moria have risen as cases of COVID-19 have been reported on the island.

In order to meet the challenges of the pandemic head-on, our teams are coming up with creative solutions to keep programs running and contribute to a global effort to reduce the spread of the disease. In some places, like Greece, where most of the refugees we work with have access to smartphones, we are transitioning our classes and services online or providing activity ideas and homework for children.

In Kenya, in addition to food supplements to combat malnutrition, we are donating other basic and medical supplies, including soap, hand sanitizer, malaria test kits, and more.

We will get through this thanks to a big, shared effort on the part of governments, businesses, NGOs, and communities. No one has all the answers, but if we first acknowledge that we’re all in this together and that everyone can play their part, then that is an important start. For IsraAID, this means doubling down on our commitment to the often-vulnerable communities we work with to help navigate a safe path through this crisis by providing public health information, distributing hygiene supplies, putting classes and trainings online where possible, and – yes – making sure people can wash their hands.

Thank you for supporting refugees around the world. 

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Today, conditions in South Sudan are dire: 80% of the country’s population lives on less than a dollar a day; 7.1 million people are in need of aid; and 1.83 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs). Women in South Sudan are among the most vulnerable groups. When fighting breaks out, women are deliberately targeted: rape is used as a weapon of war; domestic violence rates spike in part due to emotional distress; and weak reporting mechanisms leave survivors with inadequate support.

Overwhelming instability and consistent mass movement exacerbates service provision, buckling under a renewed stream of survivors in desperate need of basic services. The region’s long history of violence and displacement, as well as high levels of food insecurity, malnutrition, and potential for the spread of disease, leave these communities with overwhelming emotional distress and limited access to urgently needed support.

Each of IsraAID's 12 WGFS offers a core set of services complemented by additional activities based on requests from community members; these include:

  • Case management for survivors of GBV, including emergency support, individual counseling, and access to referral pathways.
  • Women’s groups focusing on trauma relief, psychosocial support activities, livelihood training, and literacy and numeracy classes.
  • Community strengthening activities focusing on bolstering structures that can mitigate the risk of GBV, and advocate for a culture of prevention. These awareness raising activities seek to break down stigmas and taboos, encourage use of reporting mechanisms, and end harmful practices such as child marriage, forced marriage, domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and rape.
  • Menstrual Hygiene Management workshops reach out to women and girls of reproductive age, providing them with reusable sanitary pads, training them on production of sanitary pads, and teaching sexual and reproductive health modules.

IsraAID social workers first met Faizah during a March 2019 awareness-raising session. 25 years old, she has been separated from her parents since 2016, when they fled from South Sudan to Bidi-Bidi refugee camp in Uganda. Faizah was left to support herself. Despite working hard, she could no longer afford to pay for her basic necessities - even lunch.

Faizah decided to marry Asim, a man of around 40 years old, in August 2018. She hoped to settle down and ensure that her needs, such as food and medicine, were provided for, despite the deteriorating economic conditions in South Sudan.

Quickly, Faizah’s marriage became the cause of new problems. She was subjected to daily physical violence by her husband, even losing two teeth and suffering serious back injuries from the beatings. She had hoped to travel to Uganda to reunite with her parents, but could not afford the cost of the journey.

Faizah joined IsraAID’s Women Group sessions. She received both medical and psychosocial support, facilitated by IsraAID. She soon described a new sense of hope, self-belief, and regained strength. She has now started to move on with her life away from Asim.

Through support and guidance from the social workers, Faizah was empowered to return to work, starting a small-scale tea business in a village. She has escaped the violence and the control of her husband, renting her own tukul and living independently.

Faizah continues to attend the IsraAID Women’s Group, and has committed to empowering fellow women who find themselves in similar situations to her own.

Thank you for supporting this program!

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Organization Information

IsraAID

Location: Tel Aviv, Merkaz - Israel
Website:
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Twitter: @IsraAID
Project Leader:
Tamar Lazarus
Tel Aviv, Merkaz Israel
$20,704 raised of $99,999 goal
 
301 donations
$79,295 to go
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