UN Youth Champion Visits Kakuma
UN Youth Champion Ms. Monique Coleman visits the Kakuma Refugee Camp on Thursday May 5th, 2011. You may recognize Ms. Coleman from her movies High School 1 and 2.
Ms. Coleman traveled with a UNHCR delegation and arrived at Kakuma at about 10:17 am on Sunday May 1st, 2011. She was received by UNHCR staff members and other officials at Kakuma air strip before being driven to the UNHCR premise. During her stay in Kenya, the young American actress visited many places and reached Kakuma on May 5th for a two-day mission in the Kakuma camp and surrounding areas. Ms. Coleman traveled to Lodwar District where she visited a sanitary project and a refugee school for girls near Kalemchuch Hill.
The actress is on a world tour, which she started in January 2011 to raise funds in response to challenges facing young people across the world. Under the scope of the International Year of Youth, her aim was to raise awareness about problems that face young people in general across the continent. International Year of Youth was launched in Kenya in August 2010 by the United Nations and the Ministry of Youth in collaboration with youth support organizations. In Kakuma refugee camp, youth affairs are run by the LWF Youth and Development office. The office engages youth in recreational activities related to culture, drama, debating and provision of sports and sport equipment.
The office, however, has not yet institutionalized ways to address more serious challenges like unemployment, poverty, drug and substances abuse, and reproductive health issues. “The situation for youth is unbearable in Kakuma as most young people have dropped out of school and have become involved in risky activities and behaviors,” said a staff member in the LWF Youth Development office in an interview with KANERE.
The UN youth champion showed great interest in meeting youth groups, CBOs and humanitarian agencies. She displayed warm feelings toward the numerous souls warehoused in camps across East Africa. She witnessed firsthand refugee warehousing at Kakuma camp. Despite her limited time, she visited the camp around the Main Kakuma 1 market toward the UNHCR field post one and three, taking pictures over the slightly tinted screen of UNHCR convoys.
She also visited the youth sport centre in Kakuma 1. There, she learned about refugee complaints and claims displayed on pamphlet messages on notice boards at field posts across the camp. According to refugee staff members, however, UNHCR changed the notices on the boards. “After it was announced that the delegation would visit the field post in the afternoon, I read new messages that were tacked on the notice boards to display adherence to procedures for handling complaints,” said a staff from LWF Peace Building and resolution unit. Another eye witness, a Somali in block 8 zone 2, added that he “saw a UNHCR official from community service who was adding new messages about the work of the field post on the boards and walls. Contrary to reality, that was to show visitors how things are done here for refugees.”
Ms Coleman, whose work on behalf of youth is passionate, was excited to see positive aspects of camp life. During the meetings and interactions with young people at Kakuma, she patiently heard about the needs of refugees and local youth. She gave warm smiles of promise as she listened to the voice of the voiceless cry out of the camp. “We identified Ms. Monique as a giver of voice. She is a smart youth organizer, prompting young people to be actors for development and positive social changes,” said a KANERE reader.
She urged young people to become instruments for change. “We shall have to make changes together. I want you to be the people who will transform and change your life for the better. Big responsibility lies in your hands. This tour aims to encourage all young people to speak for ourselves, for our world and for the provision of our needs,” said Ms. Coleman in a speech addressing Kakuma. Her tour will continue to Uganda, South Africa, Europe and South America to promote the UN International Year of Youth, launched on August 12th, 2010 and running through August 11th, 2011. The primary goal is to advance the participation of young people in global, regional and national issues that affect youth everywhere.