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I am passionate about:
Education and working with refugees
A little known fact about me is:
I enjoy building treehouses
Show my name on the attendees list for events I am attending:
Teacher by profession, NGO CEO by day
I am the CEO and founder of Xavier Project, an NGO working with refugees in Kenya and Uganda. I believe that everyone has the right to equal opportunities and protection wherever they live and whatever their background. This right is denied to refugees and at Xavier Project we use education to change this. I live in Nairobi with my wife and three children and I am originally from Gloucestershire in the UK.
It is sad that there is so much tension between refugees and the hosting communities in Kigoma. The work you are doing is very much needed. What is the approach of the local authorities when it comes to incidents such as the one you described?
Also, you mentioned that the hosting communities feel they have been neglected by international development efforts. Are there any local NGOs who are focusing on the economic empowerment of hosting populations? I know Jirana Bora focuses more on peacebuliding, but have you ever considered using social enterprise as a form of peace building?
Many thanks for your comment and question. In Kenya we are working in Kakuma/Kalobeyei, Nairobi and Kitengela - where we have strong CBO partnerships.
Our studies carried out over time, by delivering both direct services and services through CBO partners, have shown that the latter reduces costs by as much as 60% in the short term, with even better results over the long term as CBOs projects are sustained indefinitely. A sense of ownership means that resources within the community, including human resources are identified contributed based on sense of shared vision. Course content for CBOs to deliver in their hubs to adults has been in development since 2012 and has a proven track record. 7400 CBO participants have completed courses. As examples, 887 have graduated from functional adult literacy, having begun the course lacking literacy. Courses in the CBO hubs have helped 1458 participants start a business, 855 to access employment, and 66% of all participants have stated that the course helped them increase their income. Some of our CBOs have so far worked exclusively with children. Our CBO partner in Kitengela has supported 186 out-of-school refugee children to enrol in local primary schools, usually on bursaries. We have 165 students who recently arrived from war torn countries currently engaged in an accelerated education programme with our CBO partners.
It would be great to meet you in Nairobi where I am also usually based!
As a general rule we have found that in both Kenya and Uganda the local hosting populations are open-minded about hosting refugees in their region. My view is that often resistance is at a higher level. Indeed IRC conducted studies in both countries that showed that Kenyans and Ugandans on balance are welcoming to refugees. Here is one of them https://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/document/2857/irckenya.pdf . Of course there are numerous examples that can be pointed to where there has been tension between hosting communities and refugee communities.
In all the locations in which we work, the hosting communities have been able to benefit tangibly from development that has come from hosting refugees. Not only has the international community brought services and investment that benefit both groups, but more importantly, refugees are themselves contributing economically. Host community enterpreneurs have tended to benefit first from the increased economic activity, having been in a strong position to maximise on the economic growth from time the new settlement is launched.
Having said that, challenges to our work posed by host community actors have in some ways come about because of increased economic activity. One example would be "cartels" that have formed by hosting community business that monopolise services and contractor work in certain sectors. I believe it is easier to address these challenges by encouraging an organic local market rather than an economy that is distorted by inconsistent in-flows of spending from international actors. This contributes to our push towards localisation and the building of local capacity. When refugees and host community members outside of cartels have an increased capacity they leverage their position in the economy and are able to provide competition or alternative services and slowly erode distortions in the market.
On a day to day level, it has not been hard to find host community CBOs or host community members keen to integrate into refugee founded CBOs.