BUILDING THEIR FUTURE WITH THEIR OWN TWO HANDS
With a regional office in Yaoundé, JRS West Africa has been present in Chad since 2006, Central African Republic since 2009, Cameroon since 2015, and began its recent operations in Nigeria in 2018.
Jesuit Refugee Service West Africa serves nearly 14,900 displaced people in Central African Republic (CAR), 10,439 people who fled from CAR to seek refuge in eastern Cameroon, and 134,194 Sudanese refugees living in 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.
Efforts in this region focus on education, protection, and psychosocial support. The education programmes cover formal education (kindergarten, primary, secondary and post-secondary education), teacher training, and non-formal education, such as adult literacy and vocational training. JRS West Africa is also committed to protect children from abuses: advocate for girl child education, and provide psychosocial support for child soldiers. They also offer reconciliatory workshops to foster social cohesion and justice in the camps.
Most people see refugees as dependent and helpless but Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) West Africa see them as able people. Refugees and other forcibly displaced people deserve their right to work, to share their talents, and to earn a living. JRS seek to provide opportunities for refugees to fulfill their own potential and contribute to society. This World Refugee Day, JRS West Africa celebrated the refugees and launched the campaign “With my own two hands”.
JRS believes that refugees and displaced people once empowered, can be self-reliant. For instance, in Eastern Cameroon, The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), in partnership with ALBOAN, supported more than 190 central African refugees with livelihood programme in Bertoua (Cameroon). They were taken through professional and vocational training, given start-up support, and entrepreneurial guidance and this helped them to be self-reliance hence are agents of positive change and social transformation.
Chimene successful completed JRS vocational training. She lives in Gado -Badzéré refugee camp (Eastern Cameroon) with her 2 daughters (8 and 5 years old). She came to Cameroon 4 years ago when Central African armed conflict forced her to leave her country. She completed the JRS training course in cosmetic and hairdressing. Thanks to these skills, now she returned to the camp and opened her own beauty salon two months ago.
“At the start it was not easy, but I had a strategy on how to bring clients on board. I called some girls in the camps and straightened their hair with the blow dry for free. Few days later, the other girls in the camps saw their hair well done and they really liked it. That is how clients started coming.
Before the training, Chimene sold pastries in the camps. Now she combines both activities that is sells their pastries and run her beauty salon. “Steva coiffure”(Chimene Saloon) is the only beauty salon in Gado camp, so for now refugee women do not go to the city to have their hair done. Chimene’s dream is to earn more money to improve her business and buy some beauty products that are not available in the camp.
JRS West Africa believes that more lasting and sustainable solutions can be achieved by empowering the refugees to be self-reliance. This ease pressure on host countries and refugees too.
Article by Laura -JRS West Africa Communication officer