Refugee students pose for a group photos with staff at the JRS compound in Nairobi, Kenya (Jesuit Refugee Service)

Nairobi – In a nondescript compound in Lavington, an uptown suburb of Nairobi, sits the JRS Kenya main office. For three days in mid-August, this usually sleepy place was vibrating with the youthful energy of 40 refugee girls and boys who were attending a workshop organized by the JRS Nairobi Education program. The workshop’s theme was “Empowerment and Capacity Building for the Future”. Beatrice Munezero, the program’s coordinator, hoped to engage the high school students in a conversation about the importance of having a vision for the future and how to support one another while leveraging their creativity to realise that vision. Another goal for the workshop was to give the students an opportunity to get to know each other and also to learn more about JRS.

All the participants receive JRS support for secondary education. “We want our relationship with these young people to go beyond simply issuing them cheques. We want them to see what we do and also for us to know them better”, says Beatrice.

The workshop was a good mix of motivational presentations, mentoring sessions and fun activities. During one session, the students discussed several aspects of living in the digital age. The emphasis was on taking control and staying safe on social media. The session was moderated by the Regional Communications Officer, who also engaged the students in a conversation about being open-minded and questioning every piece of information they read on the internet as the best defense against radicalization.

The participants also heard from Mr Patrick Maina, a professional drug abuse therapist, about the behaviors that lead to drug abuse and their consequences as well as how to counter this through cultivating interests in sports, music, arts and other similar creative activities. Mr Benson, Program Manager at EFAC Kenya (Education for All Children) shared tips on how to succeed in studies and talked about the importance of integrating themselves within the host community.

In between the discussion sessions the students also got to engage in fun activities, including playing football, singing, and planting flowers. Another high moment of the three days was the visit to the JRS farm in Uthiru on the outskirts of Nairobi where they spent half a day learning about how to grow food and some of them even joined in harvesting vegetables.

At the end of the workshop, all expressed satisfaction about how things went. “We wish to have more workshops like this, because they give us motivation”, one student said. “I feel I have learned a lot, and at the same time I met new people which make me feel part of a family”

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