Vincent has big plans - all he needs is a printerLarge numbers of refugees have greatly affected the area where Vincent Kenyi grew up. He now lives in a refugee camp though he is not a refugee. But he is happy about the changes because it has granted him new opportunities to provide for himself and his family.
Vincent Kenyi is not a refugee. However, his home is in the middle of a refugee camp. The 22-year-old lives in the Northwestern part of Uganda often called West Nile, where the government has established a refugee settlement – or officially referred to as ‘Rhino camp Refugee Settlement’.
Uganda differs from most countries in the way it welcomes refugees. Upon arrival refugees are assigned a small plot of land. Here they will be able to settle down and build a future for themselves. They are free to move around inside and outside the camp and free to work the land or take work as they please.
It is a requirement that all assistance from international organizations benefit both refugees and the local Ugandans who either lived the area before the arrival of refugees or live in proximity to the refugees. One of the local residents is Vincent.
"The area has definitely changed in recent years, but that is actually quite ok. Before there was a real lack of opportunities here," he says.
“The world is changing”
For Vincent, the change in the area has meant new opportunities for him. He received IT and computer training through a project implemented by the Danish Refugee Council. The training was for youth – some of whom were refugees while others were Ugandans like Vincent.
"The world is changing. Today everything is done through computers – they are the future. That is why I needed computer skills in order to do well in life," says Vincent, explaining the reason why he chose to take part in an IT training course rather than in agriculture or another trade.
The project was implemented by the Danish Refugee Council with funding from ECHO. It targeted vulnerable youth, including those who dropped out of school and are taking care of dependents. It enables them to make a living in another way. For Vincent, the training has been of great help. His father died and as the oldest of nine siblings, it is up to him to help his mother make sure the family gets food on the table.
"I have four brothers and four sisters who I help my mother to take care of," he says.
Planning the future
Along with two other colleagues from the training course, Vincent has opened a small secretarial bureau in the settlement. The group have big plans to expand the business to ensure sustainability but have come across a number of challenges.
Recently someone broke in and stole their printer. Now business is slowing down and it's hard to make ends meet:
"The vast majority, who come here for help, would wish to have things printed or photocopied. So we actually really need a printer," he says.
And there is a good chance that a new printer is on its way, says Gloria Drateru, who is heading the Livelihood and Environment projects of the Danish Refugee Council in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement.
"We are in the process of giving them additional grant to expand the secretarial bureau. Right now they are working really hard, offering courses in the use of computers asking only very small amounts in exchange. This presents more people in the community with the opportunity of acquiring computer skills. We want to support their work, because it is a good example of how the participants of the vocational training program pass their skills on to others. It creates a sort of ripple effect," she says.
Vincent keeps his fingers crossed. He has big dreams and high hopes of his future. He and his two partners have plans to expand their business - first with a printer so they can print the letters that people ask them to typeset. He also sees great opportunities in acquiring more computers so they can form an actual computer ‘school’ where participants can follow a class using one computer each instead of all having to share one. He also hopes that they can start selling stationaries hence diversifying their business.
"And maybe also cell phones. And if we can get a camera, we can also take passport photos," he adds enthusiastically.
He smiles. He has no doubt that his dreams are attainable.
About the training
Throughout the past year, the project has given the opportunity for 1,200 young refugees and Ugandans in Rhino camp refugee settlement and Adjumani district in Northwestern Uganda to undergo non formal vocational. The camps are mainly inhabited by refugees from South Sudan. The trainings specifically targeted youth who have dropped out of school and are particularly vulnerable or breadwinners of their families. It is one of several projects that the Danish Refugee Council has implemented in the area aimed, at helping refugees as well as members of host communities find employment and become self-sufficient.
Africa's largest refugee crisis
With only a few years of exceptions, South Sudan has been plagued by war for decades. The country was granted independence from Sudan in 2011 thereby becoming the world's youngest nation. But only two years later, the country was plunged into a brutal civil war, which is estimated to have cost more than 300,000 people their lives so far. At the same time more than two million have become internally displaced inside South Sudan and more than 1.5 million have fled to neighboring countries - primarily Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. Uganda alone has welcomed around 800,000 South Sudanese refugees and more arrive every day.
During the summer of 2016 violent conflict erupted once again increasing the number of refugees significantly. The Danish Refugee Council works in South Sudan and neighboring countries including Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia and provides assistance to the people who are seeking refuge outside the country.