Ethiopia: Harnessing youth potential
18 September 2012

Training workshops for youth are an important service provided by the JRS Refugee Community Centre in Addis Ababa. Christian Fuchs/JRS
The lesson that I got from the workshop is that there is potential and talent in me that is innate but also gained from education and life experience.
Addis Ababa, 18 September 2012 - Forced to flee from everything known to them, young refugees and asylum seekers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, often have a blurry sense of their own identity and personal goals. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Refugee Community Centre (RCC) seeks to provide structured guidance on how to handle their unpredictable lives. JRS mentoring, support and training is essential to help these young people strive for a positive future and avoid negative coping mechanisms.

At a recent workshop conducted by the RCC, Diana, an 18-year old Sudanese girl, explained the impact. "I gained skills in how I can handle and cope with unpleasant life situations" she enthused. "The workshop helped me to know how to lead myself where I want to go without hesitation" she added.

Attended by 30 refugees aged 15-24, the three-day event looked at the psychological, physical and cognitive developments particularly associated with moving from puberty through to young adulthood. Youth identity, image formation, leadership and stress management were also discussed, as well as skills development in relation to combating negative habits such as alcohol or drug abuse.

During 2011, JRS provided psychosocial support, vocational and computer training, childcare and recreational activities to more than 900 refugees and asylum seekers. Since its inception in 1996, the RCC has served more than 8,000 people.

The aim of this most recent workshop was to help the young refugees feel a sense of pride in their identity and feel able to harness their creativity and potential in order to move forward in life productively and hopefully.

Francoise,* a young Congolese refugee, effectively summarised what the workshop set out to do. "The lesson that I got from the workshop is that there is potential and talent in me that is innate but also gained from education and life experience. However it is my job to manage this and make it count for me and my people."

JRS supports refugee adults and children through its Refugee Community Centre (RCC). This unique facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is a haven for refugees and asylum seekers looking for a place to gain new skills, to socialise, and where their children can play freely. In addition to psychosocial support, recreational activities and childcare, JRS has a wide programme of events, workshops and training courses to help build the capacity and the hopes and dreams of those who spend time at the RCC.

*Not real name

By Bethlehem Asrat, Education Coordinator, JRS Refugee Community Centre, JRS Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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