Ethiopia: Young refugees found youth association on international youth day
10 August 2009

“Our association will reach out to the youth, assisting them in adjusting to the changes and challenges they face and to help them become mature personalities."
Addis Ababa, 10 October 2009 With the help of JRS, young refugees recently established the Refugee Youth Association in Addis Ababa. The foundation took place on 5 August but was officially announced five days later, on the occasion of International Youth Day which was celebrated with urban refugees, JRS staff and invited guests on the premises of the JRS Refugee Community Centre (RCC) in the Ethiopian capital.

In his opening speech, Mr. Messeret Haile-Mikael, chairperson of the Refugee Youth Association and an Eritrean refugee, thanked JRS for helping realise the idea of founding the association. He pointed out that, in addition to the physical and psychological changes young people undergo on their way to adulthood, young refugees face various other challenges. “Many of them have no access to education, face unplanned pregnancies or even rape and struggle with low self-esteem and the lack of friendships,” he said. “Our association will reach out to the youth, assisting them in adjusting to the changes and challenges they face and to help them become mature personalities,” he added. Ultimately, the association aims at alleviating the problems of young refugees and at promoting a sense of social responsibility among them. 

The Refugee Youth Association plans to invite role models from among the refugee elders who will share their experiences; it will enhance a common understanding of issues affecting refugees and will also cooperate with other agencies in different areas. So far, the association has registered 30 members and more are planning to join.

Spreading healthy practices and enjoying music

Also speaking on the occasion, Mr. Jean Christophe Rugari, chairperson of the JRS Refugee HIV/AIDS Club, underlined the impact of the pandemic as well as the dangers particularly faced by the refugee community and the youth. Talking about the risk faced by those who practice unprotected sexual relationships due to poverty, he called upon international organisations and NGOs to provide refugee youth with the necessary training and education on HIV/AIDS. He finally encouraged those present: “If you are not infected so far, you must be wise. If you are infected, be patient; because, it is not the end of everything.”

The event was highlighted by various performances. A traditional music band opened the ceremony with breath-taking melodies. Later on, a musical group from a local NGO performed contemporary dance, demonstrating the need for the youth to protect themselves from socially unacceptable practices, such as smoking, taking light drugs and stealing. Cultural dances were presented by refugees from eastern Africa and the Great Lakes Region.

At the closing of the event, Mr. Seyoum Asfaw, JRS Ethiopia Country Director, and Ms. Karen Glisson, JRS Regional Programmes Officer, who was in Addis for a three-day working visit, presented awards for outstanding performance in different areas, such as language and computer classes, library attendance, music and art presentations, and sports competitions.

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