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Refugee Education Challenge: Exploring the Refugee Experience

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There are 50 million refugees in the world today, each forced by conflict to leave their homes behind and build a new life in an unfamiliar country. In preparation for the Amplify program’s Refugee Education Challenge, The Amplify Team had the opportunity to visit Ethiopia and Uganda, and meet with refugees from Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over three weeks, we heard stories of incredible struggle and resilience, began to understand the services available to refugees, and learned something very important: the refugee experience is different for every individual and family that goes through it.

Below are a few quotes we heard during our three weeks of design research that helped expand our perspective. You can read more here.


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"If tomatoes cost 500 Ugandan shillings, Congolese can be charged 2,000. And for French speakers, rent can be 3x the usual price."
– Robert, founder of YARID 

Robert, a Congolese refugee since childhood, founded YARID to provide informal education and community-based services to the other refugees in his neighborhood, after realizing that—unlike formal refugee camps—city dwelling refugees have little or no support available. Now, YARID offers English classes, literacy and numeracy training, youth sports programs, and other services, all in an attempt to ensure a softer landing for refugees in Kampala.


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"My mother was born in a war zone. She did not get the opportunity to study but she loves it so much. It will be a disappointment if I don’t study because she has a lot of hope."
– Esther, student and South Sudanese refugee in Uganda

Esther’s story is one that mirrors many we heard from South Sudanese refugees in both Uganda and Ethiopia. For many families, refugee status has been a cyclical experience, moving back and forth between home and a host country amid cycles of conflict that can last generations. For Esther, this legacy is motivation to continue in school despite incredible challenges, such as pressure to marry. “For now, I am getting married to my books and pens,” she told us.


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“That’s the powerful thing about Hip Hop – it’s owned by everyone. Anyone can do it and still be themselves.”
– Abramz, Breakdance Project Uganda


Breakdance Project Uganda uses Hip Hop to promote social change—engaging youth of all ages in workshops, performances and other forms of artistic expression. This includes refugees in Kampala, who often struggle to integrate into the host community that surrounds them. Hip Hop allows refugees and local youth to explore their own identities, learn new skills, and teach each other, says Abramz, and its one of few outlets that allow students from different backgrounds to come together, rather than focus on their differences.


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Explore more stories like these, and don’t forget to join the challenge by sharing stories about educational innovation in your neighborhood!

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Amplify Program , Refugee Education Challenge

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