Refugee NGO Takes Creative Approach to Social Services
Volume 1, Issue 1 / December 2008
Kakuma Refugee Camp is blessed with a number of NGOs operating their humanitarian missions holistically and rendering services to the refugee and host communities free of charge. Some of these services include health facilities, food distribution, education, vocational training, counseling, and more. However, it has been found that outreach services are more effective and successful when they are supported with community-based organizations and volunteers.
Today in this small article of mine, I take you to one of the recently established community-based organizations, Hope for the Vulnerable Voluntary Service (HVVS). HVVS was founded at the end of 2007 by a group of refugee members composed of different nationalities: Ethiopians, Burundians, Congolese, Rwandese, Ugandans, and Somalis, as well as local Kenyans.
I talked with the HVVS organization director, Negash Mengiste. “HVVS has its own goals and objectives,” he explains. “Its main aim is to build the capacity of vulnerable persons through training and to enhance the participation of communities in overall camp activities. We seek to advocate and promote the rights and protection of vulnerable persons. We also aim to create awareness in the area of HIV/Aids through our self-designed Information, Education, and Communications (IEC) material, and we support persons living with HIV/Aids by advocating for home-based care.”
Mr. Mengiste goes on to describe the development of his organization. “During the implementation period of HVVS, a number of activities were conducted. Some of these were mobilizing community members and cleaning the environment, creating a partnership with the IRC Environmental Program, addressing the needs of vulnerable individuals to respective offices, repairing some of the vulnerable individuals’ shelters, and listening to and advising some refugees on their problems.”
This dynamic group work approach attracted many refugees to become a component of HVVS activities, Mr. Mengiste reports. “So far, 25 new members have joined from different communities,” he emphasizes.
The director says that the road to development was not always smooth. “Although we have reached this level of achievement, it was not easy; there have been many challenges,” Mr. Mengiste recounts. “The major challenge we have right now is that of finance shortage. It is always known that no activity runs without money. However, volunteer groups minimize expenses. We tried to mobilize for fund raising among the group, and some individuals who see the positive aspect of the organization assisted and we were able to get about 100,000 Kenya shillings.”
Organizations in Kakuma Refugee Camp now face the most critical funding situation I have seen since I began working ten years ago. Organizations are reducing staff from various departments due to declining funding each year. I can observe that some gaps have been created in the implementation process due to these cutbacks. HVVS shows significant potential in trying to fill these gaps. In this regard, I feel that NGOs and UNHCR in Kakuma should focus on such community-based organizations and support them where necessary. In fact, they should encourage more community organization and volunteers to build from the ground up.