Besides the youth centre there have also been constructed football and basketball fields, so local teams can play it out every day. Photo: Klaus Bo / Danish Refugee Council.

Youth centre in refugee camp provides hope for a different future

In just two years an empty lot has been transformed into a colorful youth center, which every day provides hope and community for hundreds of youths in Kakuma Refugee Camp in north western Kenya.
 
 

19.01.2017

The colourful wall and hectic activity is the first thing you notice when arriving at the Danish Refugee Councils youth centre in Kakuma IV in the refugee camp in north western Kenya. The large camp is home to about 180.000 people, who have been forced to flee their homes in the neighboring countries. Most of the residents are from South Sudan, where new fighting has sent even more people on the run. But the conflicts have also lasted so long that many of the younger inhabitants of the camp was born here.

“Hello, how are you?”

“Good, good, how are you?”

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Greetings go back and forth in the court yard in front of the youth center’s colorful buildings, where around 50 youngsters have found shelter from the hot sun in the shades emanating from the constructions. One of these is a sort of gazebo, where the shades allows the young people to show off their newest dance moves to each other.

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“We provide a wide variety of opportunities to the young people here,” says Eliaf Mwehia, who is the Project Officer for Training and Scholarship with the Danish Refugee Council and one of the people running the youth center’s educational aspects on a day to day basis.

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The youth center has been constructed with the help of a donation by the Danish Collection, which through an annual telethon provides money for projects by 12 different organizations. One of them being the Danish Refugee Council, who in 2015 chose to give the allocated funds to the construction of the center. Today, as Eliaf Mwehia states, the center gives the youngsters of the camp a long list of opportunities to use on a daily basis.

First and foremost it has become the cultural focal point for somewhere between 200 and 500 young people, who come here every day to meet and mingle. Here they can transform their youthful energies into creative outlets and the youngsters meet and create bonds across the ethnic groupings, which are fighting each other across the border.

Much more than song and dance

Before the center was constructed, there was not a lot to do in Kakuma IV and that had far reaching consequences, 23 year old Mercy Akout says:

“It’s so harmful when young people have nothing to do. They sleep all day or they start using drugs or join gangs. There are also a lot of teenage girls who become pregnant.”

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But the center is much more than song and dance. It has both a library and a computer-room, where the young people can find support for doing their homework or for completing online education, which they would never have the opportunity to get near in the camp. This creates new hope for many, who through the youth center see new opportunities for creating a future for themselves outside of the camp.

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“That’s why I’m so thankful for the youth centre. Here we can meet up and do something meaningful. This is a place where we can escape the life outside. So I would like to thank those who made it possible,” Mercy Akuot says.