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Home: Freunde Waldorf

Kenya 2017

When Refugee Camps Become Cities

Emergency Pedagogy in Kenya

Only 100 kilometres from the border to South Sudan lies the refugee camp Kakuma, around 180,000 people live here. It is very hot here; the temperature is over 30 degrees year round. The last rainy season brought far too little water, food is becoming scarcer and scarcer. The current conflicts, armed fighting with neighbouring countries and tensions between people with differing religions, languages, and ethnicities -  are intensifying further.

The people are fleeing from war, violence, starvation, and drought and for most of them, the life in camps like Kakuma is still better than in their former homes. An end to the flood of refugees to Kenya is not in sight; over half a million people live here in the refugee camps. For over 25 years, the refugee camp Kakuma has been the final destination for many of them.  They come from all over, but especially from South Sudan, Somalia, and also Burundi, Ethiopia, Congo, and other African countries. Most of them can’t even imagine returning. The people, who came here many years ago as children, are now raising their own children here.

In 2012, the first emergency pedagogy mission took place in the refugee camp Kakuma, more followed. Two years later, a local initiative, the Waldorf Kakuma Project, came into being. Many of the workers there came as refugees themselves and are now integrated into the work. They work daily at six locations in the refugee camp, offering emergency pedagogy to children often under the simplest conditions outside in the open air. The goal is to support children in processing their experiences, who often have not been able to ever attend school, with targeted pedagogy. Another goal is to strengthen the children psychosocially with artistic and social activities. Waldorf Kakuma cooperates regularly with well-known organisation such as the Kinderhilfswerk and the UN, UNICEF, or the UN Refugee Aid Organisation UNHCR.

Only 30 km from Camp Kakuma lies the newly built refugee settlement Kalobeyei. It has only been in existence for a year and is one of the first “new” camps: A permanent settlement is planned with management, trading, and farming. Here too are so called reception centres, the collection basins, in which all arrivals are first stranded. In these admitting facilities, people have to spend up to three months during the registration process, until they receive an accommodation assignment. The refugees stay here for weeks, they aren’t allowed to move freely or cook their own food—they aren’t allowed to live. In this state between flight and arrival, they hardly have the chance to process their experiences. Especially the children suffer from what they have experienced; many are in a physical and psychological alarming state. And their parents, most of whom are themselves traumatised and overwhelmed, are often not able to adequately care for them or strengthen them.

In order to help these children, emergency pedagogy offerings now take place daily in the reception centre of Kalobeyei. Six employees of the Waldorf Kakuma Project sing, paint, and dance with them—offer them a safe place and give them moments of relaxation and joy. In addition, at the end of June an emergency pedagogy mission of the international team will take place. Besides the work with the children in the camp, the focus here will be on the training of local colleagues. Another second mission is planned, likely for autumn of this year.

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