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A young refugee relaxes with his guitar in the Jesuit Refugee Service compound at Mai Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia, home to 13,500 refugees from Eritrea. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)

(Washington, D.C.) April 29, 2013 — Mai Aini refugee camp in northern Ethiopia is home to more than 13,500 refugees from neighboring Eritrea. Jesuit Refugee Service provides counseling and recreational services to the camp residents, and provides a library and study space to help the refugees cope.

A grant from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration enabled Jesuit Refugee Service to build a multipurpose facility at the Mai Aini refugee camp. The building, which opened last year, allows games and workshops to be held in a large space offering protection from the elements.

JRS accompanies and serves the refugees by working to promote their mental and physical well-being, and to provide them with a positive use of their time — refugees in camps are generally idle, with no jobs or other activities to fill their days.

This enforced idleness often adds to the despair of their situation, having already been forced to flee their homeland and trek across the desert to seek safety, refugees find themselves ‘stuck’ in a camp with little to do.

JRS aims to combat this stress through recreational activities and by providing a study space and library services. More than 4,000 people used the JRS library in the last quarter of 2012.

Sports activities — intramural games and sports officiating classes — are organized in soccer, basketball and volleyball; workshops in music and drama are made available to the refugees in the camp. Drama workshops often focus on themes, such as combating sexual and gender-based violence and ethical living. 

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