On Wednesday 04 July, UNV East and Southern Africa attended the official opening of the Community Volunteerism Center in Kalobeyi settlement in Kakuma Refugee Camp. The opening saw entertainment in the form of group dances and musical interludes and included speeches from funding and implementing partners and the local government. The center consists of 220 seats, a solar powered lightning system, different halls and meeting rooms, and two sports fields. The center will give an opportunity to the communities of Kalobeyi to come together for meetings, events, and sports. It will be managed by a committee comprised of motivated volunteers, including a manager, youth representatives and women representatives. The center is expected to contribute to the communities’ overall wellbeing and improve the often-tense relations between host and refugee communities by bringing them together for joint events.
The centers offers a space for assembly and creativity to Kalobeyi’s residents. “Young people can come together here and organise music festivals, for example”, says David Omoth from South Sudan, one of the Youth Representatives of the center. In addition, “everything you need is here, you can have meetings and trainings in the halls here. And we also have the sports grounds for playing football and volleyball”, explains the center’s manager, Ojula Ochalla from Ethiopia. Further, Ojula sees challenges for many community members to access the internet for information and education:
In the future, we would like to have free Wi-Fi in the center so that people can come here and enjoy it. -- Ojula Ochalla, Community Volunteerism Center Manager
The offical opening of the Community Volunteerism Center by representatives of the local government, UNHCR, UNV, and LWF. (UNV, 2018)
The center also allows the communities to come together and discuss their daily challenges and find solutions together. “It is very difficult for us to access services”, explains David, “all the UN agencies and NGOs are still based in Kakuma. But from Kalobeyi to Kakuma it costs 300 shillings taking a boda boda (motorbike) and there is no public transport. That’s a lot of money for people here. So, this center will help us come together and attempt solving problems together first.”
The center is part of the joint UNHCR-UNV project “Enhancing Security, Co-Existence and Refugee Protection through Refugee Outreach Volunteers” with support of the Government of Germany, represented by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and implemented by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The project has mobilized 61 Outreach Volunteers since inception which have formed four women and four youth fora. The Volunteers have been trained in community issues such as public health, security, education, and sexual and gender-based violence. The fora will continue to reach out to their respective communities and educate their members on present concerns. The Volunteers have been provided with bicycles to ease their transport.
Youth representative David Omoth from South Sudan with the center's bicycles which were provided for transport to the Volunteers. (UNV, 2018)
Nyawal Bichoku and Christine Toto Charles from South Sudan are both Outreach Volunteers in Kalobeyi. Their duties are to generally support the community. “For example, we will help build shelter when somebody’s house breaks; or we will bring a woman to the hospital when she is in labour.” They share the story of a woman they tried to help:
There is one woman who is always very drunk. When she was drunk she would always leave her twins which are only two years old at home alone. We went to her house and gave her advice, trying to make her stop drinking. But she said: You cannot change me. Now we go to her house once a day to check up on her and the children. And when she’s drunk we will take care of the twins. -- Nyawal Bichoku, Refugee Volunteer, Kakuma
The center in Village 2 will see both host and refugee communities coming together to discuss challenges, organise events, and find creative solutions to concerns in the respective communities. To provide the same opportunities to more communities, another Community Volunteerism Center will be established in Kalobeyi, Village 3.