(Washington, D.C.) February 1, 2015 — Kakuma refugee camp hosts more than 170,000 refugees from about 12 African countries, with the largest populations having fled Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan to avert violence and famine. Jesuit Refugee Service has provided services in Kakuma since 1994, and is currently the only organization in the camp that provides psychosocial support.
Jesuit Refugee Service Eastern Africa provides individual and group counseling, runs a specialized facility for the protection of women and children suffering from sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and implements a mental health program that provides education and life skills for refugees with learning disabilities.
As part of JRS psychosocial services in Kakuma, 540 refugees serve as peer counselors for more than 2,000 fellow refugees. In addition to the direct service provided those being counseled, the peer counseling program also serves as leadership development for counselors as they strive to improve their own community. This is in line with our mission of accompaniment, working with instead of for refugees, empowering them to lead their own communities, transforming their own realities.
Despite efforts of peer counselors, one of the biggest issues they face, especially women, is lack of safety when traveling to and from the counseling site in the sprawling refugee camp. Peer counselors, many female, walk long distances through what is essentially a large town to reach refugee families needing psychosocial care. Bicycles allow counselors to travel more quickly and safely around Kakuma and to reach many more families.
"Since I received the new bicycle, counseling session effective in terms of time and the number of sessions are not missed or delayed. I was so thrilled to receive the bicycle because it has assisted me a lot to make my work here easier," said JRS counselor Kavi Moran.
A grant from the Loyola Foundation enabled Jesuit Refugee Service to purchase 69 bicycles for the peer counselors last year. JRS staff are able to access community members with greater ease since visits and follow ups are easier to execute. Additionally, as traveling time is reduced staff members are able to handle more clients.
"Bicycles also enable our staff (facilitators) who conduct the community group counseling, family counseling … and awareness sessions to transport water for the clients," said Haron Bilal, JRS Counseling Supervisor in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Refugees arriving to Kakuma have physical, material, and psychological issues that threaten survival. There is an escalating need to address trauma and other psychological related problems due to an influx of refugees arriving in the camps.
"It has really helped because it is easy ... to reach the different communities in different (parts of the camp) to serve (them) as we could not reach them because of the distance. They have helped us to supervise different areas around the camp which need our help which we could not reach before," said Monicah Atiek of JRS.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is an international Catholic non-governmental organization whose mission is to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.
To accompany means to be a companion. We are companions of Jesus, so we wish to be companions of those with whom he preferred to be associated, the poor and the outcast. JRS services are made available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs. JRS advocates for just and generous policies and programs for the benefit of victims of forced displacement, so that those made vulnerable by exile can receive support and protection and durable solution to their plight can be achieved.
JRS/USA witnesses to God’s presence in vulnerable and often forgotten people driven from their homes by conflict, natural disaster, economic injustice, or violation of their human rights.
As one of the ten geographic regions of Jesuit Refugee Service, JRS/USA serves as the major refugee outreach arm of U.S. Jesuits and their institutional ministries, mobilizing their response to refugee situations in the U.S. and abroad. Through our advocacy and fund raising efforts, JRS/USA provides support for the work of JRS throughout the world.
JRS/USA gives help, hope, ear and voice to vulnerable people on the move by being present to and bearing witness to their plight; by relieving their human suffering and restoring hope; by addressing the root causes of their displacement and improving international responses to refugee situations.
In addition, JRS/USA inspires the Ignatian family and others to respond together to the needs of refugees and displaced persons worldwide and forges strong partnerships with like-minded institutions and agencies devoted to the cause of refugees and displaced persons.
JRS works in more than 50 countries worldwide to meet the educational, health, social and other needs of approximately 950,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, more than half of whom are women. JRS services are available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.
Approximately 280,000 children, young people and adults receive primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational education services each year. JRS places the highest priority on ensuring a better future for refugees by investing heavily in education and training. Further, JRS undertakes advocacy to ensure all displaced children be provided with access to quality education. JRS services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.