Kwaheri is Swahili for “good-bye”. It’s time to climb on board this plane, take off from the Kakuma airstrip and make our way to Nairobi (90 minutes) – and then onward back to the US.
Before leaving Kakuma for Nairobi this afternoon, we had the opportunity to head 12 miles down the road toward Kenya’s boarder with South Sudan to a refugee settlement called Kalobeyei (pronounced: cal-oh-buy-yea) – part of the Kakuma refugee region.
Kalobeyei was opened in June 2016. Today it is home to 38,000 refugees – most of whom are women and children.
Here are a few photos from our visit…
Above: Kalobeyei is a relatively new refugee settlement. They are still constructing semi-permanent shelters for the people.
Above: Refugees in Kalobeyei are encouraged to grow crops and market them as a source of income. But there is a big challenge. There is no local supply of water. Still these resilient people do what they can.
Above: Markets like this are springing up in Kalobeyei. The refugee settlement is actually a source of economic growth for the surrounding host community.
Above: We met this refugee pastor from South Sudan. We were happy to hear that the Pentecostal church he leads is part of United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC) – the refugee initiated association of 157 churches from the camps and surrounding host community with whom IAFR partners.
Above: Prof. Kalantzis teaching theology
So today we offered a general training open to anyone – trauma care training in the morning and theological training after lunch. People came from different parts of the camp as well as from the host community (Turkana).
The teaching sessions were sandwiched between a beautiful meal of Ethiopian injera and coffee served up by our Ethiopian cooks as in previous days.
Above: Jenny Hwang teaching trauma care
The March training has now come to a close and it is time for us to begin our 2 day journey back to the US tomorrow. We leave with fresh appreciation for our brothers and sisters here and for the critical role the refugee church plays in helping people recover from displacement by keeping hope alive.
Above: Ethiopian artist, Tsegamalak, unrolls some of his work as part of “Destiny Art Group”, a refugee artist collective. Tsegamalak heard that my children were artists when I preached in his church last Sunday and he was eager to show me his work. He was also quick to tell me that he lived a very different lifestyle before coming to know Jesus. Today he is filled with peace and joy – even here in Kakuma.
Above: While walking back to the NGO compound, we saw a film crew and photo shoot going on, so we decided to have a look. We were quite surprised when Miss World Refugee Day 2017 (Kakuma) walked away from the cameras to greet us. Her name is Lillian and she has quite a story (taken from a UNHCR report).
Lillian Ochan, 22-year-old refugee and model from Ethiopia, was forced to flee her home country in December 2006 after armed men in military uniforms attacked their town killing many and forcing many more to flee. During her flight, Lilian and her younger sister, Lucy, got separated from their mother. For two years, the two little girls had no idea of their mother’s whereabouts. Lilian was only 11 years old, just two years older than Lucy.
In 2008, the two girls were reunited with their mother before crossing the Kenya – South Sudan border. The family of three has spent the past 9 years as refugees in Dadaab refugee camp before being relocated to Kalobeyei settlement early this year.
Alexandria, Lilian’s mother was a refugee before meeting and getting married to Lilian’s father, Mr Ochan. She fled her home country in the year 1994 during the Rwanda genocide. “I have been a refugee all my life. I have no idea what to expect from such a life,” she says.
During her flight from Gambella in Ethiopia, Alexandria lost her baby, barely a month before her expected date of delivery. “ What hurts me most is knowing the person who killed my unborn child and drove me from my homeland is walking freely while my daughters and I are seeking refuge in a country that’s not my own,” says Alexandria.
I stopped by these refugee women as they were roasting coffee and preparing lunch for today’s trauma care and theology training. I thought you would enjoy seeing them at work. So sorry you can’t also enjoy the aroma rising from the roasting beans!
Above: A mother and her children doing laundry outside of their new home (funded by IAFR)
Shelter is a basic human need.
IAFR has a long-standing “Shelter for Refugees” project that is responding to the chronic need for adequate shelter in Kakuma refugee camp and in the IDP camp outside of the town. In recent years, we have focused our efforts and resources on building shelters for the IDP as they do not receive support from humanitarian agencies serving refugees.
Above: Bernard (left) and Pauline (orange dress) with a mother who received one of the shelters provided by IAFR. Pauline is part of the IDP community government and a key partner in our work there. Bernard works with NCCK.
IAFR is partnering with National Council of Churches Kenya (NCCK) in this project. NCCK has expertise in building shelters as it is one of their responsibilities in the refugee camp. But NCCK cannot invest funding received to serve refugees (e.g. from the UN) in the IDP camp. So IAFR is raising funds and contracting NCCK to build the structures.
The shelters increase personal security and offer much needed protection against the blazing sun, violent winds and torrential rains.
Lives are being changed for the better.
Above: IDP Women break into songs of thanksgiving to God
I checked in on the poultry co-op business that IAFR helped grow to 1000 chickens last year. A handful of the 25 women that run the business were there to greet me and burst into spontaneous songs of thanksgiving to God for his provision through IAFR.
Above: Checking up on their 1000 chickens
One of the women told me that they are now able to send their children to school and buy the supplies and clothing that they need.
The women are part of a group of over 2000 IDP that fled to Kakuma for safety during post election violence in Kenya in 2007/2008. They are among the most vulnerable people in the country.
By investing in this business initiative, we are helping them survive and recover from forced displacement.
Above: The chicken coop that IAFR funded for the IDP women’s chicken business – soon to be filled with layers. They have the only local egg business within 100s of kilometers.
We apologize for the jerky camera movement in the beginning of the video. It does get better after a few seconds.
This is part of a group of women in a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Kakuma, Kenya, that started a poultry business co-op about a year and a half ago. Their goal is to pull themselves out of extreme poverty and vulnerability. IAFR partnered with them last year to expand their poultry business and Tom Albinson stopped by today to see how it was going. They spontaneously broke into a song of thanksgiving to God for his provision through IAFR.
It was great to see the 1000 chickens that they are carefully raising. Soon they will be ready to move to the new coop specially designed for layers.
They ladies told Tom how they can now send their children to school and that their lives are improving.
Thanks to our many partners who generously invested in this project. This song is for you.
Hard rains fell here last night and this morning. Here’s a look at my morning drive in the camp. At least the temperature is cooler than normal.