IAFR in Kakuma

Field notes, perspectives, stories & updates from IAFR's work in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Refugee Youth Camp

August 25, 2023
Some of the youth gathered for the Annual Refugee Youth Camp in Kakuma, Kenya

It has been a tumultuous year. The number of people forcibly displaced by human causes (violence, war, persecution, and gross violations of human rights) hit a record high in June – 110 million. UNHCR expects there will be 118m by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Ukraine conflict has depleted the source of available grain, thereby inflating the cost of what is available. The WFP has not got enough funding to cope with the high prices and growing need. Painful reductions in rations for refugees stuck in forgotten camps like Kakuma in remote northwestern Kenya has intensified the challenges of daily survival.

"Isolated, forgotten, and discarded"

Back in 2009, when IAFR was established, Kakuma had a population of around 180,000 and it was already taxing the arid region’s ability to cope. The camp population now stands at over 255,000 people – mostly women and children. It is difficult to imagine a location more likely to make people feel  isolated, forgotten, and discarded from the rest of humanity.

Water being delivered to the KISOM campus before the youth arrive.
"One of the best youth camps ever."

It was in this place that our local Kakuma partner, United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC) held their annual refugee youth camp this week, sponsored by IAFR financial partners. From all accounts, this was one of the best camps ever.

165 youth, 8 nationalities, 70+ churches

Here are a couple of highlights from this year’s refugee youth camp report from our local ministry partner in Kakuma (United Refugee and Host Churches – URHC):

We had a good turnout of 160-165 boys and girls from different nationalities. The youth were from Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda. Eight different nationalities participated in the youth camp. They represented at least 70 churches in Kakuma, both from within the refugee camp and the local host community.

Youth with the URHC Youth Camp Director (middle back row)

Breaking barriers

The main purpose of our work is to break barriers among the youth by bringing them together as one family of Christ and teaching them. Interaction among boys and girls from different nationalities and diverse denominational backgrounds is our main areas of emphasis.

We brought in professionals working in the field of law and drug abuse to speak to the youth. They were glad we invited these people.

Now what?

We are now working with camp participants to create youth groups in different zones in the camp that will organize activities, games, and seminars throughout the year.

The UN has identified youth as one of the least served demographics in refugee communities. We count it a blessing to partner directly with refugee churches in Kakuma to help them invest in young people growing up in such difficult circumstances.

- Tom Albinson
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April 28, 2023
Children in the refugee camp reception center

New people - mostly women and children - arrive at Kakuma every day. We went to a refugee reception center today to visit with some of them.

It was overwhelming.

Gatera visiting with new arrivals through the fence

It turned out that the group we spoke with were originally from Burundi - Gatera's homeland. He was able to share with them how he once arrived at a Kakuma refugee reception center and spent over 19 years in the camp before being resettled to the USA in 2016.

They told him that they didn't know what was going to happen to them. They didn't know how long they would have to wait in the reception center before given a proper shelter in the camp. In the meantime, they lived in UN tents with dirt floors. One woman said that she heard that they would have to wait 7 months before receiving a shelter.

New arrivals - mostly children

They had survived the trauma of forced displacement and the dangerous journey to Kakuma refugee camp. Now their futures would be determined by people they would never see. Where they lived, what they ate, and how much water they could receive each day would be dependent on the decisions of those nameless people.

The reception center gate

Their future depends on what the nations of the world decide to do with them. Perhaps we will leave them there and forget about them? They will become like many in Kakuma who have been there for over two decades with no end in sight. Or perhaps we will choose to care and offer them place - somewhere they can put down roots and rebuild their lives?

Whatever happens, IAFR is committed to showing up in Kakuma in life-giving ways. I am deeply grateful to our financial partners that make it possible to do so.

- Tom Albinson
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About IAFR in Kakuma

IAFR has been serving people in Kakuma refugee camp since 2010. The camp population is about 250,000 people (mostly women and children). They came to find temporary refuge here from war, persecution and gross violations of human rights. But for many, "temporary" refuge lasted fordecades with no end in sight.

We visit Kakuma 2 times annually, during which time this blog is most active.

Visit the Kakuma page on the IAFR.org website to learn more!

Our Partners

We partner with United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC) - a refugee initiated association of over 160 churches from within the camp and surrounding host community.

We also partner with Windle International Kenya (WIK), an exceptional humanitarian agency through which IAFR provides secondary school scholarships for girls.

Questions or Comments?

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