RI Marks the One Year Anniversary of its Educational Program in the Zaatari Refugee Camp

April 17, 2014

Today, more than 600 Syrian children in the Zaatari refugee camp came together for festivities to mark the first year anniversary of Relief International’s (RI) educational program inside the camp. They were joined by RI partners, friends, and parents. It was a day for the students to experience the simple joys of being a kid.

In partnership with UNICEF and funded by the European Union, the Government of Germany through KfW Development Bank, and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, RI has been providing educational assistance since March 2013 to more than 6,500 children in both the camp and urban settings who have missed up to two years of school.

Even as they escape the immediate danger of the conflict back home, Syrian children struggle to regain their place in school due to displacement. Educational programs like RI’s give these students a rare opportunity to heal, catch-up, and look to a better future.

Through RI’s program, children attend math, science, and language classes to catch up and continue their education. They also receive psychosocial services to recover from their traumatic experiences in a safe environment, attending organized recreational activities such as sports, arts, drama, and chess. Most importantly, these activities promote a sense of normalcy by giving them the space and time to play as children. 

The day’s festivities included different interactive activities performed by the male and female students inside the RI center in Zaatari. Children enjoyed activities such as face painting, drawing, storytelling, football, and volleyball. They also performed drama sketches and folk songs, spreading joy throughout the center and making the audience cheer with enthusiasm.

RI’s program will also expand in the future. Regional Director Philippe Clerc announced that RI’s remedial and informal education program will expand to include the eastern Azraq Camp this month. “In Zaatari,” he concluded, “RI hopes to register and work with an additional 4,500 students in the Remedial Program and 1,000 in the Informal Program until the end of 2014.”

RI began working in Jordan in 2004 providing emergency relief, rehabilitation, development assistance and program services to vulnerable communities in Jordan, such as Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian refugees and host communities. Incorporating an integrated approach, RI launched different projects related to education, sanitation and health, internet learning, digital community and culture exchange, sanitation, and remedial education to Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan.

Learn more about RI’s work here.

Update from the Relief International Team in the Philippines

April 1, 2014

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, RI’s Rapid Emergency Deployment (RED) Team immediately deployed to provide urgent primary medical care in the Tacloban area. Now, exciting developments are underway as the Carigara District Hospital, the hospital that RI’s RED Team helped staff, has begun operating at nearly full capacity for the first time since Haiyan. The hospital serves approximately 215,000 people in six towns. Recently, the hospital performed its first operation in the newly-restored operating room—a birth!

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Above:  Members of RI’s Rapid Emergency Deployment (RED) Team in front of the Carigara District Hospital

Success stories like this are becoming more common as the people of Philippines rebuild, but a long road of recovery remains. The widespread destruction of critical infrastructure following Haiyan resulted in millions of displaced people without access to essential services such as electricity, healthcare, sanitation facilities, and clean water. To meet these needs, RI is currently helping provide access to safe drinking water, supplying hygiene and sanitation facilities, and conducting hygiene awareness education. Haiyan had a severe effect upon agriculture, particularly for the country’s coconut production. To prevent future devastation, RI is in plans to launch projects that will work with local communities to replant coconut using an intercropping scheme to strengthen the coconut trees’ resistance to high winds.

Find out more about RI’s current work in the Philippines here. 

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Above: RI’s Rapid Emergency Deployment (RED) Team

Photo Credits: Roger Spinti

Third Anniversary of the Syria Crisis

March 17, 2014

Last week, global vigils were held across the world to mark and commemorate the third anniversary of the crisis in Syria as part of the global #WithSyria campaign. Thousands of people across the world stood together shining a light in solidarity with the people of Syria. In the Zaatari refugee camp, North Jordan, Save the Children arranged vigils attended by many including representatives from Relief International, lighting candles and flying balloons to show support to the millions of Syria children, women, and men who are struggling each day to survive the crisis.

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Photo Credit: Karl Schembri/ Save the Children 

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Photo Credit: Karl Schembri/ Save the Children 

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Photo Credit: Karl Schembri/ Save the Children 

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Photo Credit: Karl Schembri/ Save the Children 

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Photo Credit: Karl Schembri/ Save the Children 

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Photo Credit: Karl Schembri/ Save the Children 

Join us. Learn more and help support Syrian families and children here.

Update from the Relief International Team in Lebanon

March 14, 2014

In Lebanon, Relief International, with support from UNICEF, is providing access to education for thousands Syrian and Lebanese host community children. Here’s a heart-warming update from the RI team in Lebanon: 

"I know how to hold a pen and write my name," Anas, a seven-year-old Syrian boy, proudly tells RI staff. Anas attends classes as part of RI’s Accelerated Learning Program. Anas was previously out of school for two years.

"I love my school and my teachers, and I want to learn more to be able to go back and rebuild my country," he says. 

RI’s Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) operates in 24 schools and five learning centers across Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and North Lebanon (Tripoli). Our team helps out-of-school Syrian children to become enrolled in the formal education system, catch-up, and perform better. To date, RI has reached more than 7,000 children and aims to reach 30,000 by the end of 2014 as our project scales up throughout the year.

Learn more here.

Join us and help support Syrian children here.

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Above: Syrian children receiving educational assistance from RI in Lebanon.

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Above: Children attending the RI ALP program at the King Saoud School in Beirut where in thanks they created a heart and wrote “RELIEF” with the UNICEF in-kind donated school bags they received.

Bringing Smiles to Syrian Children in Zaatari

March 11, 2014

An update from the RI team in the Zaatari refugee camp, northern Jordan:

This past January, delighted peals of laughter and song rang throughout the RI education center in the Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan.  As part of RI’s remedial education project, the RI team helped organize winter recreational activities for students at the RI education center. To close the celebrations, RI held an Open House for students’ families and friends to visit the schools, see the students’ work, and learn more about how RI’s educational programming can help their children catch-up in school.

Widespread displacement has resulted in thousands of children without access to education. Disrupted curricula and exposure to trauma has left many students behind in their schoolwork and unable to make up for lost time. Since March 2013, with support from UNICEF, RI’s educational program in the Zaatari refugee camp has been providing much-needed educational opportunities to displaced Syrian children.

See some of the smiling faces:

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Learn more about RI’s remedial education program at the Zaatari camp here.

Join us and help support Syrian families and children here.

Update from the Relief International Team in Iraq

March 10, 2014

Since November 2013, RI has been carrying out activities inside the Dara Shakran Camp in Erbil to help more than 2,000 Syrian refugee families. RI’s goal is to improve health and quality of life for all within the camp, by implementing best practices for health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and education. RI is also providing water quality monitoring services to ensure that water is safe for refugees to use and drink. Read more and learn how our work has influenced the lives of refugees like Mahmoud and Kalia:

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Preventing Polio

The assistance RI provides has had a huge impact on refugees’ lives by preventing disease and improving health. One key task for RI’s team has been to ensure that all children in the camp are vaccinated against polio to prevent outbreaks of the disease, like those seen inside Syria. The war has prevented many children from receiving routine vaccinations and as a result, Syria has suffered from outbreaks of polio which have caused lifelong disability, and in some cases death. To prevent similar outbreaks in Iraq, the government launched a vaccination campaign for Syrian refugee children but after data analysis, RI found that only four children out of 1,253 children under five years of age in the Dara Shakran Camp had received the vaccination. Immediately, RI began a tent-to-tent awareness campaign to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated. The campaign was an enormous success, and nearly all children in need in the camp have been vaccinated, giving them protection from the devastating effects of polio.

The crisis in Syria, coupled with economic and geographic instability, has resulted in decreased attendance rates for many children in the region. One of RI’s most important priorities is ensuring as many children as possible attend school, and our staff work closely with parents, schools, and local authorities to enroll children in school and make sure they attend regularly.

Helping children like Mahmoud get back to school

As part of RI’s efforts to identify children unable to attend school, RI’s mobilizers met Mahmoud, a 14-year-old Syrian boy. He had dropped out of school to work to support his mother, grandmother, and sister. Mahmoud’s disabled father was still in Syria and his mother considered it shameful for a woman to work, forcing Mahmoud to leave school to work as a laborer on a construction site, a dangerous job in Iraq. “My job is difficult,” he said, “and I miss my friends and school.”

In an effort to get Mahmoud back in school, RI’s education team spoke to his mother to try to find a solution that would allow Mahmoud to attend school again. Mahmoud’s mother was initially very reluctant for him to go back to school because she could see no other way for the family to obtain money. RI’s team suggested that she find a job herself and discussed with her the kind of work she could do. She said she had never worked because she considered it shameful but that she did have basic dressmaking skills. RI’s team persuaded her to accompany them to the camp’s job center where she met with advisors who enrolled her in a training course to improve her sewing skills.

Above: Mahmoud in class.

Mahmoud’s mother excelled in the training course and now runs a small but successful sewing business from their tent. She no longer believes that it is shameful for women to work and is proud to be supporting her family and enabling her son to attend school. Most importantly of all, Mahmoud in now happy to be back school where he is working hard to make his dream of becoming a cardiologist come true.

Above: Mahmoud (center) and classmates.

Improving Lives

The majority of RI’s team is composed of Syrian refugees who live in the Dara Shakran Camp. The work RI is doing in the camp allows our staff to earn an income to support their families and provides them with a sense of dignity and hope for the future.

One of our hygiene and sanitation mobilizers, Kalia, was desperately looking for a job when we met her. A married mother of two – Mustafa, aged two, and Sirwan, aged five months, was solely responsible for providing for her family, as her husband is disabled and her extended family remains unemployed.

Before joining RI, Kalia had never worked and is delighted to be earning an income for the first time. RI provided her with the training she needs to help other refugees, and she said she is enjoying being able to assist others. RI’s flexible hours allow her to return home to breastfeed her baby at lunchtime and care for her family.

In her own words, Kalia says that, “Since beginning work, my whole life has changed. I feel proud that I can now support myself and seven other people in my family, and that I can serve other people in my community too.”

RI’s dedicated team in Erbil will continue its work with Syrian refugees in Dara Shakran Camp to promote health and save lives. Perhaps most importantly of all, RI is equipping refugees with the knowledge they need to improve their lives, thereby giving them a degree of control over their situation and offering them hope for a better future.

Learn more about RI’s work with Syrian refugees in Iraq here.

Join us and help support Syrian families here. 
 

Relief International’s RED Team Helps Families Heal in the Philippines

December 20, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan - one of the most powerful storms on record - raged through the Philippines on November 8th. Relief International’s Rapid Emergency Deployment (RED) Team mobilized immediately to provide urgent medical care to survivors.

Relief International’s RED Team has been stationed in the Tacloban area staffing a city hospital and running two mobile clinics. To date, RI’s team has provided medical treatment to more than 3,700 patients. Additionally, our team has addressed the psychological well-being of over 500 people to help them heal as they rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

Photo Credits: Roger Spinti 

A RI RED Team doctor examines a patient’s injury.

A RED Team doctor comforts a young patient.

A mother holding her child who received treatment for dehydration (Carigara District Hopital).

One of our young patients.

A boy translates for younger boy how to “open wide” for the RI RED Team doctor.

A local repairing the roof of a hospital damaged by Typhoon Haiyan.

Vendors in the Carigara market show off their products.

Some of the Relief International RED team members taking a moment to pose outside one of the medical clinics near Tacloban City.

"The smiles, the handshakes, the words of appreciation, the tearful thanks, the desperate handholds, the infections we treat, the wounds we close, the breathing we make better, and the lives our team has saved are what make me know that we are supposed to be here.” -RI’s RED Team leader, Dr. Vivian Reyes

Photo Credit: Dr. Don Engle, RI RED Team

 RI RED Team with a young patient (Tacloban City). 

Learn more about RI’s work in the Philippines here.

Stories from Syrian Refugees and the Most Precious Item They Left Behind

September 6, 2013

 

The Syria crisis has reached disastrous proportions and now over 2 million Syrians (half of whom are children) have been forced to flee their homes. Relief International has focused on protecting and assisting Syrian children and families since the start of the crisis.

Read these stories straight from the field and hearts of Syrian refugees. Hear firsthand what their hopes and challenges for the future are.

 

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Above: Sabina,* a young woman with bullet on necklace. Sabina tells us, “When the days are hard, this reminds me of the life I left behind and I am able to push onward.”

 

On a silver chain around her neck, Sabina* wears a bullet that tore through her family’s house in Homs almost a year ago. She pulled it from the wall the night before her family left the house just after Eid last year. Sabina, a former chemistry student, her parents, two sisters, and five brothers traveled for a day until they reached the sprawling camp of Za’atari in Jordan — a place of little grace and increasing desperation. They left in a hurry, carrying few possessions but heavy with memories. “Home is best,” says Sabina. One brother stayed in Syria; the family doesn’t know when they will see him or their home again. They worry. Sabina has tried to cobble together a life in the uncertainty, seeking meaningful work and trying to continue her education. She says that the work she does with Relief International as a hygiene promoter gives her the satisfaction of knowing that she can help other people, other families, who fled the same conflict. She repeats how grateful she is to the Jordanian people and the Jordanian government, without whom her family would not be safe.

When Sabina holds the bullet around her neck, she says it reminds her of why she and her family had to run from Syria. “When the days are hard, this reminds me of the life I left behind and I am able to push onward.”

 

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Above: Razan* tells us, “There is always hope. This must be the more powerful thing.”

 

Razan* is a busy woman. In Syria, she was a nurse and she also owned a small clothing boutique, as well as being a mother of four. Last year, she and her husband took her children, the six-year old twin boys, their five-year old brother, and the baby girl, just over a year and a half old, and fled the besieged city of Homs, fearing for their lives. Some of her family stayed in the city. “Some of my family in Homs are hostages or in prison there and I worry about them every day,” she says. She’s been able to talk with them regularly since coming to Jordan but continually fears for them in the ferocious fighting that has continued in Homs.


Now, living in Jordan, Razan spent two days in Za’atari refugee camp upon their arrival but promptly moved with her family to the city of Mafraq to try to find work and make a life for the children. “There are many challenges to overcome and living in the city is very difficult. We didn’t realize all the hardships we would face. My husband works, we have received a little help from our neighbors and small assistances from a local church, which has provided help with basic issues. It isn’t just non-food items or hygiene materials — they really care about us and have given us a good push to help get us moving forward,” she tells us.


She says that her, and the rest of the Syrian refugee community’s primary concern is for the education of the children, some of whom have missed up to two years of schooling due to the conflict. While there are other, more immediately pressing issues, Razan insists that the education of the children is the way to establish a future, a way to build hope.


Razan has found work with Relief International, which helps her support her family. It also gives her a sense of satisfaction and purpose. “RI is invested in this job- RI proved the community wrong- RI is not just here to take photos and leave.” She feels that she’s making a difference to her fellow Syrian refugees and takes pride in her work. “We [RI] have started to build strong friendships between Jordanians and Syrians in the communities…The structure of our teams being a combination of Jordanians and Syrians is not only a great way of relating to those we are able to provide assistance but is also a platform where peoples from two countries can come together to take this on.”


When Razan left Jordan she carried very little. At first, she insisted that the only thing she cared to take with her was the children. But finally, she remembered at the last minute, she was able to grab a miniature Quran; she says it gives her the strength and courage to face the future. Razan admits that life in Jordan isn’t easy but says, “There is always hope. This must be the more powerful thing. ”

 

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Above: Rafeek* found work with RI — a turning point in his story. He has revived his love of learning and feels that he is earning an honest living and is able to pay for this own things, reclaiming his dignity.

 

Rafeek,* a 19-year-old originally from the area around Daraa in southern Syria, was studying in Damascus when the war cut him off from the future his education held. He is the youngest of three brothers, and the war brought fears for all three: his eldest brother defected from the Syrian Army, the middle brother was almost the age of military service. The family decided the young men would flee with their mother into Jordan. Once the brothers settled their mother into her tent in Za’atari, Rafeek and the next eldest brother returned to Syria, believing that the situation had stabilized enough for them to continue studying. But the situation became more volatile, not less, and again the brothers crossed back into Jordan, a necessary but devastating move.


“I used to see the world from the pages of a book, now there are no more books for me,” says Rafeek. He dreamed of a future he thought only education could bring. “My dreams stopped when I missed my baccalaureate exam,” he says.


Physically safe in the Za’atari camp, the young men found themselves adrift in a crowded camp with nothing to do. Rafeek couldn’t leave the camp as he lacked proper identification papers and conditions in the camp were worsening as more and more refugees fled the fighting. He remembers, “The camp was growing so quickly that that they couldn’t keep up with arrivals. The nights were very cold and we had no electricity or heaters. There were no schools, we couldn’t do anything and life was very bad, very difficult. Day after day, we just had to adapt.”


Rafeek found work with RI — a turning point in his story. The rest of his family was able to move out of the camp and to Amman, partially thanks to his contributions. Rafeek decided to stay behind in the camp to continue his work with RI; in his capacity with the program he’s revived his love of learning as part of RI’s education program. He lives with the team, and feels that he’s earning an honest living and is able to pay for this own things, reclaiming his dignity.


Rafeek fled with very few possessions and he recalls what he left behind, saying, “I have left my thoughts, my hopes, my dreams and my soul in Syria. I have left everything.” He insists that despite the bombs and the violence he will go back to Syria to find his dreams where he left them, to find himself, and to make a future.

 

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Above: Mimar* tells us about the most precious item he left behind, a jacket. He says, “[It] Isn’t even a nice jacket. I think it cost me $3 when I picked it up second hand, but I love that jacket. I wish I could have saved [it]. It’s funny the things we obsess over when we have everything.”

 

Mimar* spent a significant amount of time in Jordan before the Syrian conflict began. He says he had a good job for 23 years, working as a tile-layer and trading across the border. He liked the job and traveled often. Two years ago he came for work: he hasn’t been back since. While he was in Jordan, the fighting near his hometown of Homs forced his family to leave and try to join him in Jordan. During the long journey, his family experienced extreme trauma —- and a miraculous story. When they arrived at the border Mimar’s family was rounded up with a larger group of about 40 Syrians waiting to cross into Jordan. They were literally 10 feet from the border and asked to “wait until it was safe to cross.” Unfortunately, it was a trap, and soldiers arrived and imprisoned them. During the chaos of the arrest, Mimar’s fifteen year-old son was pulled away from the group. There, in front of his mother and within a few meters of the elusive safety of the Jordanian border, a soldier shot him in the head. Mimar’s family spent three days in prison, not knowing their son’s fate but assuming the worst. However, the boy had been taken to a Syrian hospital and survived his wound. He was reunited with his family when they were released from prison, and carried across the border by his family to join his father in Jordan. He remains partially paralyzed but the family is overjoyed to be together, safe.


Unlike the other refugees interviewed, Mimar was already in Jordan when the crises began to escalate. When he came for business two years ago he thought he would only be in Jordan for a short time, so he didn’t bring anything special from his home. When asked, he says he would have brought his favorite old jacket. When his wife was coming to join him with the children, he asked her to bring it, but in all of the chaos, she forgot it in Syria. “[It] Isn’t even a nice jacket. I think it cost me $3 when I picked it up second hand, but I love that jacket. I wish I could have saved [it]. It’s funny the things we obsess over when we have everything.”

Eight months ago Aleemah,* 28, left Syria thinking she would only be in Jordan for a short amount of time. Her home was burned, all of her possessions destroyed. Now she carries her most important belongings — pictures of her family, her home, and legal certificates — on her smartphone.

Aleemah has been working as a teacher with Relief International for over a month, and she says that while she misses her parents and siblings, the staff has become a surrogate family. She says she is grateful to the RI family, not only for helping her fight her loneliness and anxiety for her family, but also because the work gives her strength and hope to help other Syrians who have lost their homes. While she carries the pictures in her phone, she repeats that she carries Syria in her heart.

 

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Above: Syrian refugee children at one of RI’s education centers in Jordan.

 

Asim* carries no keepsakes from home and tells his story by talking of others. In Syria he taught English. Even after the war came, he didn’t want to leave. He helped three other families, his brother and sister and their children, to move through Damascus to Jordan. It was for them, his nieces and nephews, that he left Syria and joined his family in Za’atari. He says that the children of the camp are scared of the dark, scared of the bombs and mortars that they heard. “So many of the children here have been severely traumatized by what they have been exposed to and they need psychosocial support. They have nightmares from hearing the bombs and mortars through the night.”


Asim was able to leave the rough conditions in Za’atari and find a place in Mafraq. He was desperate for work and by happy accident found a place with Relief International. Stable with a place to live and an income, he turned his attention away from his own situation and back to the children. In the past, Asim taught adults but now he is dedicated to educating refugee children. He helps to prepare materials for English teachers in the education center who are trying to fill the gap left in the children’s education during the war, which for most is more than two years without formal schooling. Asim says the teachers live in tents here in the camp, adding, “We are trying to make a future for the children by offering them a good education. They are the future of Syria and without an education, there will be no future for these children or for the people of Syria — these children are the future of Syria.”


He finds the sparse, dry climate of northern Jordan a shock; he’s reminded of the fruit trees near his home and his last hope is to return to Syria. While he was still living in Syria, Asim tells us that his house was burned, almost a year ago along with everything inside. Everything was destroyed, leaving him with nothing as he fled his country. “The only thing I wish to do is visit my father’s grave. I haven’t been able to since before the revolution.” Asim’s parting comment is, “I hope I can help, I hope to give whatever support is necessary. These children may be the future makers, not future destroyers; we will do what we can to keep them safe.”

 

Take action and join Relief International’s efforts to help Syrian refugees. To find out how you can help and to donate, click here.

 

*Name has been changed.


Relief International’s South Sudan Protection Coordinator, Cecilia Corriga, Reports from the Field in the Upper Nile State, South Sudan

August 9, 2013

 

RI’s Cecilia (Ceci) Corriga shares with us the story of Safa from the Doro refugee camp. Safa, driven by his belief in the power of education, helped organize adult educational classes for refugees residing in the camp so they may gain needed skills to improve their livelihoods. RI, through support from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM), now helps support the informal adult education sessions Safa helped organize that currently support 1,000 students in the Doro refugee camp.

 

Safa arrived in Maban in April 2012. Leaving his home and job as a teacher in Blue Nile State, he and his family walked for three days to reach South Sudan, where they now settled in the Doro refugee camp.

 

“Life in Doro is not easy”, says Safa. Food is scarce and “young children are particularly affected.”

 

Being a teacher back in Blue Nile, Safa knows how important education is. With about 20 other colleagues from different communities within Doro camp, they decided to offer their skills to other fellow refugees.

 

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Above: Ceci (far right), Khor (who supports and manages the refugee teachers), and two of the teachers of the community (Reuben and Safa) with some of the students.

 

“We need to share whatever knowledge we have with our people: education is the key and way to success.”

 

Students learn math, sciences (concentrating in particular on skills that are useful in a refugee setting, like water-borne diseases and how to prevent them) and Arabic language. In addition, every community has an English class: “Everybody realizes how important English is and how it would improve one’s chances to find a job – now in Doro, and in the future, when we will be able to go back to Sudan,” says Safa. 

 

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Above: Students attending an English class in the Belatuma community, Doro refugee camp.

 

Relief International started supporting those adult informal education sessions in April 2013. To date, Relief International is supporting about 1,000 students and 25 teachers with the provision of material and the construction of shelters, which allow the students to continue attending the classes even during the rainy season.

 

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Above: Ceci talking to the teachers in the Chali community.

 

The challenges of supporting an informal education program in a refugee camp are many. Even though the shelters (used to house education session during the rainy season) were constructed using local material, all the other material needs to be brought in from Juba, the capital. Everything is needed: from blackboards and chalk, to notebooks and books. With the international community’s attention shifting to other humanitarian crisis, the funding is constantly reduced and it’s becoming harder and harder to support education programs. The risk is that refugees who will have to settle in Upper Nile State for quite some time will have no chance to receive an education, and another generation of refugees will miss out on the chance to improve their livelihoods and stop relying on international aid.

 

Ceci

Supported by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM)

Relief International’s Social Enterprise Intern, Isabelle De Larclause, Reports from the Field in Ghana

July 17, 2013

 

Isabelle updates us on her latest adventures as a Relief International intern in Ghana. Isabelle works directly with the retailers and producers of the Gyapa fuel-efficient cookstove, developed by Gyapa Enteprises to reduce charcoal consumption by up to 50 percent and dramatically reduce household air pollution, one of the largest risks of disease in developing countries. 

 

My big assignment has been ‘mapping’ retailers and producers in Ghana by taking photos and tagging them using the GPS function of my camera. I spent the first couple of days in the office getting to grips with the GPS function on my camera and how I could use it in order to create the network map of Gyapa cookstoves.

 

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A Gyapa cookstove retailer in Ghana.

 

We went to Makola and Madina Market where we met various retailers of Gyapa cookstoves. This was my first experience of a Ghanaian market, having spent the last four and bit years living in Brighton, England with their famous South Lanes, I was fairly accustomed to narrow, weaving alleys and walkways, but Makola and Madina Market are on another level. With stock towering over you I’m not sure if someone with claustrophobia would be able to cope. For me, however, it was a great experience.

 

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Evelyn sells Gyapa cookstoves in the Makola Market.

 

In Makola Market we met two wonderful retailers, Susie and Evelyn, and both gave fantastic interviews. After finishing the interviews with both Susie and Evelyn, we went across the city to Madina Market where we interviewed two further retailers and a commercial user. It was great to hear people say such positive things about Gyapa cookstoves. We finished the day by going to visit two end users of Gyapa and got interviews with them. It was great to hear opinions of Gyapa from end users, which are not affiliated with the manufacturing and production scheme. One of them gave such an amazing testimonial, we couldn’t quite believe it: “Gyapa is the best for every household.”

 

On Friday we took the two hour journey to Winneba, which is to the west of Accra, to visit Ekem. Ekem produces the clay liners, and this is what makes Gyapa so fuel efficient, as it retains the heat so users do not have to use as much charcoal. It was really interesting to hear what Ekem had to say, as he has worked with Gyapa Enterprises for ten years and so has been there right from the beginning. He described in great detail the processes behind making the clay liners, which is a critical part of the Gyapa cookstove.

 

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Ekem, a Gyapa ceramicist in Winneba, at work producing clay liners for the Gyapa cookstove.

 

I also used this opportunity to gather GPS points. The aim is to plot where all the producers and retailers are, and the aim to plot all the retailers and producers so we can see the distribution of the stoves. It is a great way for everyone to see the impact the program has had, and is embedded into our website, so that everyone can see the faces of Gyapa!

 

It’s been a great time here in Ghana. I’ve had some great experiences meeting the various people that are a part of the Gyapa network. I am looking forward to more visits to retailers and producers, because it is these amazing people that make the Gyapa cookstove network so great.

 

Isabelle 

 

See Issabelle’s GPS Google map project here.