Enhancing Security, Co-existence and Refugee Protection Through Refugee Outreach Volunteers

In collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and partners have developed and implemented volunteer initiatives with refugees and host communities in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. These activities enhance community security and refugee protection through refugee engagement, with a focus on strengthening the social cohesion between refugee and host populations. Partners include the Lutheran World Federation, County Government of Turkana, Kenya, and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The project consisted of recruiting refugees from the camp and members from the host communities as Refugee Outreach Volunteers. Additionally, UNV used its refugee-to-refugee volunteer modality to recruit and deploy one refugee identified in the camp as a UN Volunteer. The Refugee Outreach Volunteers served with UNHCR and were provided with the necessary capacities, knowledge and resources to contribute to addressing their own protection needs. 

For years, refugees have been mainly dependent on humanitarian assistance with minimal livelihood and self-reliance opportunities. UNV’s volunteer assignments offered refugees the opportunity to take an active role within Kakuma Refugee Camp, by participating in community outreach and social protection activities that not only provide a safety-net for the camp’s inhabitants but also contribute to their wellbeing and development.

In this project, refugees are partners in development efforts and empowered to act as drivers of the change and of the solutions they want to see.

Main activities of the project have included Recruitment of Refugee Outreach Volunteers from both the refugee and the host communities to serve with UNHCR, Training of Refugee Outreach Volunteers in community issues such as public health, security, education, and sexual and gender-based violence as well as Joint activities between the refugee and the host communities (e.g. football tournaments) to build mutual understanding, to enhance dialogue and to ensure peaceful co-existence.

This project piloted innovations to bring together refugee and host communities and at the start there was an element of mistrust. But from 2017 to 2019, Refugee Outreach Volunteers ensured a peaceful, sustainable and secure co-existence within the refugee community and towards the host community around the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Project activities have brought harmony between host and refugee communities and promoted effective coordination on issues of conflict and security.

At its completion, the project has mobilized and trained 146 Refugee Outreach Volunteers (11 from the host communities, 135 from Kakuma Refugee Camp). These volunteers have formed four women and four youth groups that engage on community development activities in health, water and sanitation, sexual and gender-based violence, entrepreneurship, education, environment and sports.

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