In solidarity with immigrants and refugees who flee their countries mainly due to civil war, Pope Francis last year launched a global solidarity campaign ‘Share the Journey’ aimed at enhancing cohesion and peaceful coexistence between migrants and communities.
Speaking during the launch at St. Peter Square, Rome, Pope Francis said that combating the indifferences in the world today means seeing through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye. “Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by but t stop. And don’t just say what a shame, poor people, but allow ourselves to be moved by pity.” Pope Francis said. ‘Share the Journey’ campaign will be coordinated by Caritas Internationalis with other Caritas agencies implementing the same in their respective countries.
As such, Caritas Nairobi through the Urban Refugee Programme has since 2013 been working closely with refugees, empowering them to be self sufficient. The programme mainly targets youth, women and young mothers and so far the project has supported over 1, 000 refugees. Additionally, Caritas Nairobi provides legal services and micro credits for start-ups.
“Tailoring’ my happiness.” The story of refuge and hope in a foreign land
Every day at 8.30am, Monique Nishimwe, makes way to the Kivuli Vocational Centre, where she is attending a tailoring and dress-making course sponsored by Caritas Nairobi. The sessions start at 9am, so Monique wants to settle down before then. This has been her morning routine for the last nine months when she was recruited into the Caritas Nairobi Urban Refugee Programme, which focuses on building sustainable and resilient livelihoods by promoting education and vocational skills.
The 20 year old from Rwanda tells me in a rather boastful manner, “Five months into the course, I was able to cut and stitch an outfit, skills I did not have much less dreamt of ever having,” she says as she proceeds to set a bobbin in the sewing machine.
I understand why Monique would want to boast about her newly acquired expertise, it is simply an achievement and in her words, “A source of renewed hope in a foreign land.” Monique is among the 30 refugees who have benefited from the sponsored vocational training in Nairobi’s Riruta area.
The tailoring and dress making course ended last month and already Monique is earning an income. “I repair and design clothes on a regular basis. I do not own a sewing machine yet but whenever I get clients, the Kivuli Centre hosts me. In due time I am sure that I will open my own tailoring shop.”
Monique came to Kenya in 2016 in search of her father after her mother passed on. During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Monique’s parents were separated by the war and at the time, Monique’s mother was pregnant with her. Monique was able to locate her father and they currently live together in Riruta. She explains that though they struggle to make ends meet, they are much happier and hopeful.
Alice Mwangi has been teaching at Kivuli Vocational Centre since 2005, the bigest challenge she encounters with refugees is language barrier. In addressing the issue, Caritas Nairobi also sponors a six months basic literacy training course before the refugees proceed to the next stage that is vocational classess. “The basic literacy training has really boosted the teaching process,” says Ms. Alice.
Currently, Kenya is host to over 600,000 refugees with over 80, ooo residing in Nairobi and its environs. If empowered to be independent, this huge refugee population can greatly contribute to the country’s economic and social development.
Under the Relief programme is also the peace building intervention in the slum areas. The peace building activities being implemented in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) targets community members & leaders, school going children and youth aged between 18-35. The initiatives include peace building youth training workshops, peace clubs and annual peace building competition where participants compete in songs, debate and essay writing. The peace building centres are Holy Trinity Parish in Kariobang and St. John Paul in Mathare an outstation of St. Teresa Parish