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A dance class, part of the Jesuit Refugee Service psychosocial programs for youth at Mai Aini refugee camp in northern Ethiopia, February 24, 2015. More than 18,000 refugees from neighboring Eritrea live in the camp. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)

(Addis Ababa) March 31, 2015 — Mai Aini refugee camp is located in north central Ethiopia. The camp is home to about 18,500 refugees from neighboring Eritrea. Many of the camps residents are young. While they spend a few hours a day in school, there are still many hours of the day where they are confronted with the never-ending tedium of camp life.

Faced with a frustrating lack of prospects for a better future, and the unyielding boredom that descends upon refugee camp residents, many of the young refugees choose to leave the camp.

They attempt to move on to Sudan and Libya with the intention of getting to Europe, and end up attempting the unsafe passage across the Mediterranean that has resulted in so many deaths. Others are trafficked into the Sinai, where they are sold to criminal gangs and exposed to torture and extortion.

JRS is working with the young refugees to help alleviate the negative aspects of camp life and provide hope for their future. 

With a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Jesuit Refugee Service in Mai Aini works to promote the mental and physical well-being of refugees through the provision of library services and recreational activities such as sports, music, theatre … and dance.

Camp life can be brutally dull, and combined with promise of better prospects elsewhere it is easy to see why a youngster may seek to leave. It is important for both their physical and mental well being that children — and adults — be given the opportunity to pass their time in a refugee camp learning and socializing in a healthy way with others.

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