‘A grim milestone’ in Ukraine – average of 42 civilian casualties each day during two years of war.

An average of 42 civilian casualties each day during two years of war in Ukraine

A burned book lies in rubble

NGO members of the Humanitarian Platform in Ukraine, which includes FCA, call for the immediate protection of civilians in Ukraine and for promises made by states to address humanitarian needs to be fulfilled.

KYIV, 24 February 2024 – Two years since the escalation of war in Ukraine, more than 10,500 civilians have been killed, including 587 children, as constant bombardments, mines, and drone attacks have left a generation traumatised, displaced and fearful for their lives, said 51 members of the Humanitarian NGO Platform in Ukraine.

With an average of 42 civilians killed and wounded per day, and recent months being particularly deadly, the group, made up of local and international organisations working in the country, is calling for the immediate protection of civilians, and reminds member states of promises made to tackle dire humanitarian needs of people in Ukraine.

Explosive weapons cause life-changing injuries

More than 87% of the people killed or injured, or 9,241 people, are casualties of explosive weapons, with many of the injuries life-changing in nature, including the loss of limbs or eyesight. The number is understood to be a vast undercount, as the UN continues to corroborate the figures. At the same time, people across Ukraine far from the frontlines also need support to rebuild their lives and recover.

“My daughter is growing up in the basement now,” says Sviatlana. “She and her 7-year-old daughter decided to stay in Kherson, an area that comes under heavy bombardment… “The longest time we had in the dark without electricity was 1.5 months, so now when there is a blackout I try to joke with my daughter, ‘what is one day, we already had way worse’. …Now there is only waiting and surviving. She is just a kid and wants to play outside on the playground, but she cannot leave the basement.”

Two years of renewed fighting has destroyed lives, homes and livelihoods, leaving 14.6 million people, including nearly 3 million children, in desperate need of humanitarian assistance across Ukraine. Nearly 80% of those in need of aid also require mental health support. The poverty level in Ukraine increased five-fold – 24 percent up from 5 percent – in 2022 alone.

Most displaced people wish to return home

Because of ongoing violence, about 4 million people are still displaced within Ukraine and more than 5.9 million were forced to flee to neighboring countries. Even though 67% of those internally displaced say they want to return home someday, many are unable to return to their homes as the war has shattered their communities, and livelihoods.

Many displaced people struggle to integrate in their new communities, where it is difficult to find jobs and housing. Women make up 58% of the internally displaced, and are more likely than men to experience unemployment and dependency on humanitarian aid.

Vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by the ongoing war. Existing inequalities, including those facing children, Roma people, LGBTQIA+ people, older people and people with disabilities, are only increasing as the long-term, as compounding effects of the crisis drive specific needs.

“Life is far from normal”

Joanna Garbalinska, Director of the Humanitarian NGO Platform in Ukraine, said:

“As the war continues, life is far from normal. Civilians are living day-to-day under the threat of missiles and shells, which continue to hit populated civilian areas, inflicting death and destruction to areas near and far from the frontlines.

“The Humanitarian NGO Platform in Ukraine calls for all attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure to cease immediately, particularly in dense urban areas, as they may amount to grave violations of international humanitarian law. Civilians must always be protected from violence.

Today marks a grim milestone of the war in Ukraine. As the fighting heads into its third year since the escalation, humanitarian agencies in Ukraine remind member states of promises made to tackle this crisis. Today, humanitarian support is more needed than ever. Long-term funding commitments for humanitarian and recovery efforts – with Ukrainian civil society in the lead – are critical for the safety of civilians and for Ukraine’s future.”

The Humanitarian NGO Platform in Ukraine is an independent coordination body with 78 Ukrainian and international NGO members who are operational and delivering humanitarian assistance in Ukraine. The NGO Platform is dedicated to serving and facilitating the work of its members to efficiently and effectively address the humanitarian needs of conflict affected people.

Finn Church Aid’s work in Ukraine focuses on education, psychosocial support and rehabilitation of school structures. The war that started in February 2022 has damaged thousands of schools, of which hundreds are entirely destroyed.

—-

NGO Signatories:

  • “БО “”МБФ “”Руки друзів””// Friends’ Hands
  • ACTED
  • Action Against Hunger (ACF)
  • ActionAid
  • ГО “АЛЬЯНС.ГЛОБАЛ” // ALLIANCE.GLOBAL, Public Organization
  • arche noVa
  • CARE
  • Caritas Ukraine
  • Caritas Zaporizhzhia
  • Corus International
  • CUAMM – Doctors with Africa
  • Danish Refugee Council
  • Estonian Refugee Council
  • ГРОМАДСЬКА ОРГАНІЗАЦІЯ “ЕДКЕМП УКРАЇНА” // Public Organization “EDCAMP UKRAINE”
  • FHI 360
  • Fida International Ukraine
  • Finn Church Aid
  • Help-Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe
  • Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation
  • Humanity & Inclusion – Handicap International (HI)
  • humedica e.V.
  • International Rescue Committee
  • INTERSOS
  • La Chaîne de L’espoir
  • Lutheran World Federation
  • MAG (Mines Advisory Group)
  • Medair
  • Médecins du Monde International Network
  • Medical Teams International
  • Mercy Corps
  • Nonviolent Peaceforce
  • Norwegian Refugee Council
  • Oxfam
  • People in Need
  • Plan International
  • Premiere Urgence Internationale
  • Right to Protection
  • Save the Children
  • Solidarités international
  • Stichting Vluchteling (The Netherlands Refugee Foundation)
  • Terre des Hommes
  • Паросток// Parostok
  • UK-Med Ukraine
  • Ukrainian Red Cross Society
  • Українська фундація громадського здоров‘я // Ukrainian Foundation for Public Health
  • Welthungerhilfe
  • World Vision International
  • ZDOROVI
  • ГО “Дівчата”// NGO “Girls”
  • ГО «ГІ Допоможемо Разом» //NGO “Will Help Together”
  • Єдність чеснот//NGO “Unity of Virtue”

Dorcas, 17, is adjusting to a new life as a refugee in Uganda and hopes to stay in school

In an unfamiliar land – Dorcas, 17, is adjusting to a new life as a refugee in Uganda and hopes to stay in school

17-year-old Dorcas fled her home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the middle of a school day. In Uganda, Dorcas is struggling to stay in school and get enough food. FCA helps young refugees build a better future for themselves.

Text: Elisa Rimaila
Photos: Antti Yrjönen

THE COOLEST hours of the morning are best suited for field work. A heavy wooden-handled hoe kicks up dust from the soil layer and Dorcas Uwamahoro, 17, scatters a few brown beans onto the ground. If the rains come on time and are sufficient, Dorcas’ family will have a bean harvest from their own field on their plates in three months.

The sun is already high in the sky, although the birds on the hills surrounding the field are just beginning their concert. Dorcas finds the last beans in her pockets, throws them on the ground and uses her hoe to pull a thin layer of soil over the top.

“Life was good at home in the DRC”, she says.

“Now, I’m just constantly hungry and I have to work a lot with my family members to get food. My clothes get dirty, and I feel dirty too”, Dorcas says.

Kolme ihmistä kävelee kukkuloiden välissä olevassa laaksossa Ugandan maaseudulla. Ihmiset kantavat päänsä päällä ruokabanaaniterttuja.

Dorcas Uwamahoro (centre) was separated from her parents Salome Imanizabayo (right) and Jean Habiyaremyea when she fled the Democratic Republic of Congo. Social media brought the family together on the Ugandan side

Kolme henkilöä kävelee tiellä Ugandan maaseudulla. Heistä keskellä oleva tyttö ja oikeassa laidassa oleva mies kantavat päänsä päällä ruokabanaaniterttuja.

Life as a refugee has been hard for the teenage Dorcas. In her new home country, Uganda, she has to help her parents with various farm chores that help the family put more food on the table. 

Kolme kongolaista henkilöä kulkee kameran ohi. Etummaisena oleva nainen kantaa olallaan kuokkaa, keskellä oleva nuori nainen ja mies päänsä päällä ruokabanaaniterttuja.

Dorcas’ parents do their best to ensure that their daughter and her younger siblings can go to school despite being refugees. 

Dorcas arrived in Uganda as a refugee in spring 2022, shortly after the conflict in her home region in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) escalated again.

They escaped in the middle of a school day.

“We started hearing gunshots around the school. My brother and I fled home, but already at the door we noticed that our parents and the rest of our siblings were no longer there. We flung the books out of our hands and continued running”, Dorcas recalls.

The conflict in the DRC began long before Dorcas was even born. Over three brutal decades, more than five million people have lost their lives. The DRC is a huge country, and the conflict in its eastern part is one of the most forgotten in the world: It only makes headlines when something bigger happens. One such moment was in March 2022, when armed groups became active once again and hundreds of thousands had to flee their homes.

By the end of 2023, about half a million Congolese people had fled across the border to neighbouring Uganda, and nearly six million were living as refugees in their own country. The long-lasting cycle of violence has already had enormous effects on several generations of young people. Many have had to drop out of school and live their everyday lives overshadowed by fear.

Nuori kongolainen nainen istuu pöydän ääressä ja katsoo sivulleen.
“I miss my friends, but I don’t know where they are now”, says Dorcas Uwamahoro. The flight from her home country took place in the middle of the school day in April 2022. 

Reunited by social media

When looking west towards the DRC from Dorcas’ current home, the large Nakivale refugee settlement on the southern border of Uganda, it is hard to believe what natural riches lie between the two countries – and what human suffering they have caused on the other side of the border.

The DRC and its eastern neighbour, Uganda, are separated by Lake Edward, one of Africa’s major water bodies, and the rugged Virunga Mountains. The world also knows them as the ‘mountains in the mist’, thanks to the successful autobiographical book by the American ethologist Dian Fossey and the Hollywood film based on it.

Instead of wild nature, the gentle hills surrounding Dorcas’ home are mostly planted with cooking banana trees, i.e. matoke. Corn and bean fields have also been ploughed on the slopes, with long-horned Ankole cattle and goats strolling at a leisurely pace on the sides of the road formed in the reddish brown sand. Among the animals, there are people carrying banana bunches, water canisters and hoes.

Dorcas arrived from the eastern DRC to Uganda by a different route than the rest of her family. Thanks to smartphones and social media, the family members found each other soon after crossing the border into the refugee reception area.

“I had already thought that I would never see my parents again. I felt awful, but the employees of the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR assured me that there is hope.”

“I felt extremely happy to see them”, Dorcas says.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, Uganda offers refuge to 1.5 million refugees from the DRC and South Sudan. These figures make Uganda the largest refugee-receiving country in Africa and the fourth largest in the world.

Nuori nainen istuu matalalla puupenkillä ruskean tiilitalon edessä Ugandassa ja juttelee kahden pienen lapsen kanssa. Toisella lapsella on sylissään nalle. Taustalla näkyy rakennus ja kasa tiiliä.
17-year-old Dorcas Uwamahoro has eight siblings in total. In addition to older brothers, the family also includes younger siblings, whom Dorcas helps take care of when her parents are working in the fields. 

Dorcas’ family settled in Nakivale, the place where the resettlement of refugees in Uganda began. Originally established in 1958, it is the oldest refugee settlement in all of Africa. Over the past six decades, East and Central Africa has been battered by various natural disasters and conflicts, forcing millions of people to flee their homes.

In 2020, more than 170,000 refugees lived in Nakivale and the number of new arrivals is ever-growing. In addition to the DRC, they had arrived from Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The settlement is in constant motion. Some have stayed for decades, others were born as refugees. Some have been lucky and have been able to return to their homeland.

Kaksi naista keskustelee pellolla Ugandassa.
Dorcas’ (pictured here with her back to the camera) mother Salome Imanizabayo, 40, is an experienced farmer. Back home in the DRC, the mother cultivated the family’s own field. 

Dependency on food aid

Being a refugee has been a hard pill to swallow for the 17-year-old. Life is very different from what Dorcas is used to. Back home in the DRC, Dorcas’ father worked as a teacher and her mother cultivated the family’s own piece of land. Dorcas attended school and lived the life of a normal teenage girl, which included spending time with her friends.

“I miss my friends, but I don’t know where they are now. In the midst of war, everyone went their separate ways”, she says gravely.

Listening to Dorcas, it becomes clear how worried she is about the future. Most of the little money the family of eleven has is currently spent on food. Each member of the family receives both money and food, such as beans, cooking oil, salt and maize, through the World Food Programme (WFP), but the donations are not enough to cover all of their needs. In particular, they are not enough to keep the family’s children in school.

Watch the video of Dorcas Uwamahoro telling about her life as refugee.

“We didn’t have such problems at home in the DRC. Here, our schooling is constantly at risk because we don’t have the money for the school fees”, she says.

In Uganda, it took Dorcas three months to be able to go to school.

“At that time, I was constantly thinking about where I could get the books and a school uniform and whether I would ever really be able to go back to school. I was very depressed”, she says.

Now, Dorcas goes to school most days. Dorcas received school supplies, a backpack and the encouragement she needed from Finn Church Aid. With support from its disaster fund, FCA has been working in the Nakivale refugee settlement to get children and young people back to school since 2022.

Ugandalaisen pakolaisasutusalueen tiellä kävelee paljon ihmisiä. Osaa taluttaa polkupyöriä ja monilla on käsissään ostospusseja.

Relief supplies from the World Food Programme (WFP) have become an important part of food security for the family of Dorcas Uwamahoro, 17, (centre) in Uganda. Dorcas collects her portion from the food distribution point every month. 

Kongolainen perhe kuokkii peltoa Ugandassa.

Uganda supports the food security of people arriving in the country as refugees by giving each family a piece of land to grow their own food. Dorcas Uwamahoro’s family was hoeing the field they received and planting their first bean crop in the Nakivale refugee settlement in September 2023. 

Lakkipäinen mies seisoo pellolla Ugandassa ja nojaa kuokkaansa. Taustalla näkyy maisema ja muita ihmisiä, jotka työskentelevät pellolla.

Dorcas’ father, Jean Habiyaremye, 42, worked as a teacher in his home country of the DRC. He wants as many of the children as possible to go to school and achieve the best possible future for themselves. 

Dorcas’ family has barely enough money to pay for her schooling, but not for school meals. She often has to sit through afternoon lessons with her stomach rumbling with hunger.

School meals in Nakivale would cost 60,000 shillings per semester, which is equivalent to just under 15 euros. This money would buy a single lunch in downtown Helsinki in Finland, but it is a large sum for someone living as a refugee in Uganda.

Inflation has increased the price of food in Uganda as well. At the same time, large traditional aid organisations, such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Refugee Agency UNHCR, have had to drastically cut the aid they offer due to a lack of funding. The cash grant awarded by the WFP per person in the refugee areas of Uganda is 12,000 shillings, or about 2.90 euros, per month. The amount is well below the limit of extreme poverty of around two euros per day. Some of Dorcas’ family members receive support in the form of food products and some in cash.

The lack of funding is largely due to two things: Firstly, the fact that the world’s interest has been heavily focused on Ukraine, not Africa. At the same time, crises have greatly intensified in the region due to climate change and political instability, which has driven hundreds of thousands of new people to flee their homes, for example, in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan in addition to the DRC.

Nuori kongolainen nainen ojentaa lapselle kädesään olevaa vihkoa. Naisen edessä toinen lapsi pitelee kädessään oppikirjaa. Henkilöiden takana näkyy savella muurattu rakennus.
17-year-old Dorcas’ chores at home include preparing her 6-year-old twin sisters for school and taking them there. Dorcas is sad that Asante Melody and Pacific Yvonne do not get food during the school day because the family is so poor. 

Language problem challenges learning

Rumbling stomach aside, there is also another factor that makes the school days of Dorcas and many other refugees more difficult.

“At home, we studied in Swahili and French. Here, the teachers only speak English. Due to my lack of language skills, I had to move a couple of years down in level.”

Kolme nuorta naista kävelee Ugandassa pakolaisasutusalueella hiekkatiellä keskustellen ja nauraen keskenään.
After fleeing her home in the DRC, Dorcas Uwamahoro (centre) lost touch with her friends. In Uganda, she has made new friends who share the same experience of being a refugee. The Congolese Asante Ruzuba (left) and Neema Bizimana are also Dorcas’ schoolmates. 

The language challenge gnaws at the girl’s mind, but the schools in the refugee areas follow Uganda’s official curriculum. It defines the language of instruction as English.

“At home, I was one of the best students in my class. I raised my hand often during lessons and understood everything. I felt smart”, she says.

In order to succeed at school, Dorcas has to study English. She is often frustrated by how difficult everything is.

“I didn’t understand anything during the first few days at school!”

Dorcas has learned the language little by little. She gets help from an English teacher working as a volunteer at the school who has also arrived from the DRC to Uganda as a refugee.

Nuori kongolainen nainen kurkistaa ovenraosta ja hymyilee.
Even though going to school hungry and having to use a foreign language is tough, Dorcas Uwamahoro wants to believe that she can influence her future by studying hard. 

“Now, I know how to say hello and can at least greet the teacher in class”, says Dorcas, clearly downplaying her skills a bit. The young woman’s favourite subjects at school are especially mathematics and chemistry because she can get on in those by doing calculations.

In Nakivale, the refugees as well as the local children and young people attend the same school. Language unites refugees of different nationalities as well. Dorcas says that she also gets support from her new friends, whom she met as soon as she arrived in Uganda.

“We started getting to know each other because we share a common language”, she says.

One of Dorcas’ new friends is Neema Bizimana, 19, who, like Dorcas, has had to get used to a new life in a foreign country. The families of the teenage girls are now sharing a field in the refugee settlement, provided by the Ugandan government.

Kaksi kongolaista tyttöä nojaa koulurakennuksen seinään ja juttelee keskenään lähikuvassa.

In the refugee settlement of Nakivale, Dorcas Uwamahoro, 17, receives support for her persistence at school from her friend Neema Bizimana, 19. Despite their age difference, the girls are in the same class because both have had to learn English to follow the lessons. 

Dorcas and Neema are currently helping their parents plant beans in the field. The harvest is expected in three months. The girls hope that crops from their own field will put an end to the constant hunger.

Nevertheless, it seems that tiredness and worries are forgotten in the company of a friend. Taking a break, the girls giggle as they lean on their hoes.

“I have friends here who give me hope. They have good ideas and they also encourage me to stay in school, no matter what”, Dorcas says.

The article has been written as part of a 2024 Common Responsibility Campaign in Finland. The Common Responsibility Campaign is an annual fundraising campaign of the Finnish Lutheran Church. A share of campaign proceeds are channeled to the Finn Church Aid’s Disaster Fund, which enables the launch and implementation of emergency response to humanitarian disasters.

FCA and partners launch TVET report at Global Refugee Forum 2023

FCA and partners launch TVET report at Global Refugee Forum 2023

A group of smartly dressed people pose for a photo.
From left to right: Minister Awut Deng Acuil, Minister July Moyo, Dr. Prosper Ng’andu, Christine Hofman, Mrs Marianna Knirsch, Ms Lilian Musoki, Mr Abraham Kamara

Government representatives from Germany, Liberia, South Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe and FCA experts discussed how to bolster refugee self-reliance through technical and vocational education and training (TVET) during the international forum on refugees.

AT THE EDUCATION CAMPUS, linked to the 2023 Global Refugee Forum, FCA with its 15by30 steering committee partners, ILO, GiZ and UNHCR, hosted an expert panel to explore the results of the new report, “Economic and labour market impacts of TVET for refugees in LMICs.

With Ms. Christine Hofmann from the International Labour Organization moderating, the panel found common ground on the need to open up access to labour markets to refugees, as well as the need for training programmes to be labour market relevant and their results more rigorously evidence based.

Economic impact of TVET

A lady sits on a chair and talks into a microphone. Behind her a projection shows the FCA Finn Church Aid logo
Minister Awut Deng Acuil stressed the big economic return of TVET

Minister Awut Deng Acuil, the Minister of General Education and Instruction in South Sudan stressed the economic investment of TVET,

“TVET has a big economic return. When you give the skill to individuals, you will see the impact in a very short time – in the family, in the community where they live.”

She continued that traditional education approaches have concentrated on primary and secondary education, whereas TVET can “produced professionals, who can help in development of the country, but also in economic growth,” adding that skills can also help them reintegrate if they return to their home countries.

A man in a suit sits on a chair and listens. He has a microphone in his hand
Mr Kamara emphasised the need for robust evidence on TVET outcomes

The expense of TVET programmes was mentioned by almost all of the panel. Mr.Abraham Kamara, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that building up a robust evidence base was key to helping international donors and governments make sound funding decisions.

“We need to provide qualitative data, so the donors will be able to situate themselves. The implementing partners will be able to design programmes that will be more focused financially. By providing structured data that will be able to overcome the shortcoming of budgetary that most host countries face,” he told the packed room.

This was a point also brought up by the new report, which offers six recommendations to better bolster refugee skills.

Responsive programming, new skills

Mr Kamara also emphasised the need for gender responsive programming and digital skilling, like in FCA’s own Creative Industries programme.

This was echoed by Mrs Marianna Knirsch, Deputy Head of Education Division at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, who also brought up the importance of green skills in TVET programmes, as well as the importance of integrating refugee training into national frameworks.

Two men in suits sit on chairs on a brightly patterned carpet
Minister July Moyo of Zimbabwe (L) and Dr. Prosper Ng’andu of Zambia outlined their country’s approach to TVET

“We try to make it as far as possible to integrate whatever we do for refugees and IDPs into nation systems – we know it’s more efficient, we know it’s more effective and it will offer prospects to refugees either if they stay or go back,” she stated.

Also on the panel were Mr. July Moyo, Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Zimbabwe and Dr. Prosper Ng’andu, Commissioner for Refugees, Zambia, who both outlined their own countries’ approach to TVET with Dr Ng’andu describing a ‘paradigm shift’ in Zambia through which refugees are now seen as an asset that can be welcomed to build the economy. 

FCA Uganda’s Lilian Musoki related her personal experience with the TVET complementary pathways programme and laid out clearly that financing is key.

A woman in a black suit wearing a bright necklace and red lipstick listens intently.
FCA’s Lilian Musoki used her years of experience to clearly outline further needs.

“We want an increase in TVET financing, financing that looks at scholarships. If it is labour mobility, if it is a TVET pathway, these scholarships should look at TVET directly.”

Ms Musoki ended the session by quoting an apt African proverb: “if you are afraid of the bee, you will not harvest honey.”

Text and photos: Ruth Owen

FCA, ILO, UNHCR and GiZ form a steering informal committee as part of the 15by30 ‘megapledge’ (link) for refugee tertiary education.

Read more about the steering committee’s research and approach to TVET for refugees.

FCA Uganda receives top honour at Visionaries of Uganda Awards 2023

FCA Uganda receives top honour at Visionaries of Uganda Awards 2023

Finn Church Aid Uganda has been recognised as the “Best International Education Humanitarian NGO of the year 2023”. This prestigious recognition was conferred upon the organisation at the 11th Visionaries of Uganda Awards ceremony on November 30th, 2023, hosted at the Kampala Serena Hotel.

THE EVENT was held under the theme “Celebrating Inclusive Economic Growth And Dynamic Leadership Through Innovation, Value Addition And Industrialisation For Continued Socio-Economic Transformation Of Uganda.”

It was presided over by The 3rd  Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Lukia Isanga Nakadama. During the ceremony, she extended congratulations to the Visionaries and urged them to persist in their commendable work.

A large glass award. Text engraved on it reads "THE 11TH VISIONARIES OF UGANDA AWARDS Presented to FINN CHURCH AID UGANDA On The Occasion Of Being Honoured As The Best Visionary INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION HUMANITARIAN NGO OF THE YEAR By The People Of The Republic of Uganda For The Outstanding Contribution Towards Uganda Middle Income status Aspiration and Vision 2040 on 30th November, 2023 From The Government Of The Republic Of Uganda"
FCA earned the award through its work with refugees in Uganda.

Finn Church Aid earned the recognition for its exceptional contributions to transforming and equipping refugees and host communities with education and vocational training skills in Uganda.

The award was presented to FCA Uganda Country Director, Mr. Wycliffe Nsheka, by the Minister of State for Urban Development, Hon. Obiga Kania Mario.

Expressing gratitude, Mr. Nsheka remarked, “It is a tremendous honor to accept this award and be acknowledged as the best international education humanitarian NGO in Uganda.”

“In collaboration with the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, and other stakeholders, FCA Uganda is actively involved in addressing Education in Emergencies in the refugee settlements. we are dedicated to fulfill the right to quality education which is a fundamental human for all. I extend my appreciation to the committed FCA Uganda staff, our partners, and donors for enabling us achieve this award.”

A smiling man in a suit sits at a table in a room full of people. He is holding an award and showing it to the camera.
FCA Uganda’s Country Director, Mr. Wycliffe Nsheka, proudly displaying the award.

Initiated in 2012 by the President of Uganda, H.E President Yoweri Museveni, the awards aim to recognise organisations and initiatives driving socio-economic transformation in alignment with Uganda’s Vision 2040 strategic development plan. The Visionary Advisory Board, supported by a team of researchers, conducts thorough assessments, surveys, and evaluations to identify outstanding organisations contributing to the realization of Uganda’s Vision 2040.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Breaking down language barriers at school 

Breaking down language barriers at school 

Abraham Bashombana Aganze, a Congolese young man, interprets school lessons for refugees. In his opinion, the key to a good life is dedicating it to helping others.

THE BRUTAL CONFLICT in the Democratic Republic of Congo, continuing for over three decades, has created over five million refugees. About half a million of them have crossed the border to neighboring Uganda for a more peaceful life. Abraham Bashombana Aganze, 30, from North Kivu, is one of them. He lives in Nakivale refugee settlement area, established in 1958.

Abraham, who has a university degree, had to escape violence in his homeland in 2020. For him, it was easier to settle in the Uganda than for tens of thousands of other Congolese people. In the university, his major was English – one of Uganda’s official languages. Most Congolese have never studied English, as education in DRC takes place mostly in Swahili and French.

This language barrier is one of the most urgent threats to the continuation of education for those coming to Uganda as refugees, particularly from the DRC. Abraham noticed the problem soon after settling in Nakivale refugee settlement area and wanted to help. Now, he works as a volunteer English interpreter in Rubondo community, in a school supported by Finn Church Aid.

”I started volunteering after some youth who know me came to request me to teach them enough English to go to school. I soon figured out this would be the best way for me to help the most people”, Abraham says.

”My philosophy? Life is about helping others.”

Becoming a refugee turns your whole life upside down

As an interpreter, Abraham participates in classes and helps the students whose English is not good enough follow the classes. The school has both local students and refugees, like many other schools in Uganda. The regular staff of the school consists of Ugandan teachers who, in turn, don’t speak Swahili or French. For this reason, youth with a refugee background struggle to understand the lessons.

Abraham gets a small monetary remuneration for his volunteer work. He usually spends five days a week at the school.

”If, for some reason, I can’t get to the school, students I know come to my house to ask for help with homework.”

Becoming a refugee turns your whole life upside down, even in a neighboring country. To Abraham, being a refugee means financial uncertainty, as they can no longer work in the areas they’re familiar with becausethere’s no job for their training. Uganda makes the lives of the refugees easier by giving families plots of land for farming. Abraham’s family has also received a plot to till.

” Here, one needs to literally be growing one’s own food. I’m a city boy and did not know a thing about farming, until hunger forced me to learn.”

Dream of an English-language learning center

Abraham has been able to also utilize his language skills by working as an interpreter for Finn Church Aid visitors in the Nakivale refugee settlement area. Being a young man, he has many plans – establishing an English-language learning center for the area, improving the productivity of land through composting, and learning more about forms of agriculture that help in building a better life. Abraham knows it will be a long time before he will be able to return home.

”When I sit down and think about my homeland, I feel a great sadness welling inside me. I want the Democratic Republic of Congo and her people to get on its feet and get stronger. Education is the key to all of this – that’s what I believe.”

According to Abraham, few Congolese youth dream about returning to their homeland. The trauma left by the war and the violence runs deep. Still, life as a refugee is not easy in Uganda, either. Thus, Abraham wants to do his part for the youth of his homeland.

”All of our knowledge and wisdom dies with us unless we share it with others. If I share what I’ve learned to hundred people, for example, they will share them on to at least hundred other.”

Text: Elisa Rimaila 
Photos: Antti Yrjönen 
Translation: Tatu Ahponen

From refugee settlement to graduation gown

From refugee settlement to graduation gown

A man in a graduation gown and cap stands outside posing for a photo
Peter graduated after obtaining a scholarship provided by FCA.

Peter Salah Sam Luka is a 27-year-old South Sudanese national living as a refugee in Uganda. His journey towards higher education was made possible through a scholarship provided by FCA, funded by UNHCR.

IN 2013, PETER’S UNCLE, who resided in Uganda, extended a life-changing invitation to Peter to attend school in Koboko district, Uganda. After successfully completing his secondary school, Peter returned to South Sudan in 2015.

But in 2016, his life took an unexpected turn as conflict overrun their homeland, forcing his family to return to Uganda as refugees. Peter’s family of six children and his mother found their new home in Uganda’s Bidibidi refugee settlement.

Grief to graduation

A smiling man in a business suit sits outside in front of foliage.
Peter’s journey towards higher education was made possible through a full scholarship.

In his smartly tailored blue suit and shiny black shoes, Peter radiates confidence and happiness. His recent graduation with a degree in Business Administration, is a testament to his steady determination and is a source of immense joy to him.

For Peter, the path to university education was once nothing more than a distant dream. The loss of his uncle, shortly after he completed secondary education, left him facing overwhelming obstacles. Even upon receiving his exam results, he hesitated to apply to any universities.

“I am the first in my family to complete A levels, and I had a burning desire to continue my education. However, the weight of financial constraints left me feeling despondent.”

He adds, “I was genuinely afraid and heartbroken when my uncle passed away. He wasn’t a wealthy man but a modest taxi driver, and yet he managed to provide for his eight children, his wife, and me.”

Peter returned to the refugee settlement and as luck would have it, he found an advertisement for FCA and UNHCR scholarships. With determination, he hand-delivered his application to the FCA Yumbe office, hoping for an opportunity. Three weeks later, he was excited to receive news of his shortlisting and an invitation for interviews at the Refugee Welfare Committee offices.

Out of 120 applicants, only 50 were fortunate enough to receive an in country-scholarship opportunity from the National Association of Partners (NAPS) under UNHCR funding, a program implemented by FCA. Reflecting on that moment, he shares, “this phone call marked an important turning point in my life. I had once thought my educational journey had reached its end, but here I was, rekindling my hopes and dreams.”

Fully funded scholarship

A smiling man in a business suit and holding a briefcase stands outside in front of foliage.
Peter wants to use his own opportunity as a platform to advocate for education in refugee camps.

Peter’s undergraduate scholarship was fully funded, granting him the opportunity to enroll in a prestigious university. With guidance from a friend who was already studying at Nkumba university, Peter gathered the information needed to apply for a degree in Business Administration. He was admitted in the August 2018 intake.

“For the first time in my life, I could focus on my studies without the burden of worrying about tuition, food, accommodation, school supplies, transportation, and other uncertainties. FCA and UNHCR wholeheartedly provided for me, allowing me to study with dignity.”

Peter’s friends, who were also recipients of the scholarships, pursued their education at Uganda Christian University and Uganda Martyrs University and are now in their final semesters.

“I am deeply thankful to FCA for recognising individuals like me and providing a chance to benefit from these life-changing scholarships. I also extend my heartfelt appreciation to NAPS-UNHCR for their unwavering commitment to funding our education,” says Peter

First of his family

Through FCA’s efforts, secondary schools in Bidibidi, create opportunities for continued learning and higher education for those who aspire to further their studies, like Peter.

A woman in a headdress and brightly patterned skirt stands outside. She has a neutral expression
Peter’s mother is preparing a special feast for his return.

“I am living proof that it’s not over until it’s over. I remain committed to advocating for education within refugee camps, aspiring to rewrite the narrative for the better,” he continues.

Peter’s mother, Lorna Koropo shared her own happiness, saying, “I couldn’t be present at his graduation, but I plan to prepare a special feast for him when he returns to Bidibidi. He is our first child to progress beyond secondary level school.”

Peter, meanwhile, is looking ahead with anticipation: “I eagerly await the opportunity to join the job market, to become self-sustaining, support my family, and embrace new and better opportunities.”

Learn more about FCA/UNHCR scholarships

Text and photos by Kadlah Nabakembo

FCA Uganda and UNHCR award 30 scholarships for refugees to study in Italy

FCA Uganda and UNHCR award 30 scholarships for refugees to study in Italy

Finn Church Aid (FCA) in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has awarded scholarships to 30 refugees to study various master’s degrees in Italy.

The students enrolled in the University Corridors for Refugees (UNICORE) project are from Uganda’s refugee settlements of Kyangwali, Kyaka II, Rwamwanja, Bidibidi, Palorinya, Adjumani, Koboko, Kiryandongo, Adjumani, Palabek and Uganda’s capital – Kampala.

THE UNICORE SCHOLARSHIP programme aims to increase opportunities for refugees currently residing in Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to continue their higher education in Italy in a bid to promote higher education and increase the share of refugees enrolled in higher education. The program is a funded by a consortium of 33 universities in Italy coordinated by UNHCR Italy.

FCA took part in the fifth cohort of the programme, which was the first with Ugandan participation. Out of 50 UNICORE scholarship slots across Africa, Uganda was awarded 30.

25 candidates travelled to Italy on October 12th 2023, while the remaining will follow at a later date.

A group of young people pose for a photo outside of FCA's offices in Uganda. They are laughing and one woman at the front is showing peace signs with her fingers
Candidates from refugee settlements in Uganda were awarded UNICORE scholarships with FCA support, enabling them to study in Italy. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Refugee advocates

Speaking during the send-off for the candidates to Italy, Wycliffe Nsheka, Country Director for Finn Church Aid Uganda, commended the successful students for receiving the scholarships and encouraged them to study hard.

“Finn Church Aid supports the right to quality education right from early childhood through primary and secondary school, as well as vocational and higher education. We will continue working with UNHCR to look into different opportunities for different pathways in order to make sure that we assist refugees in realising their education goals.

He encouraged the candidates to be ambassadors in Italy. “Go and succeed, get new opportunities, and make your life better. We would like you to inspire more refugees.”

Representatives of UNHCR also echoed Mr Nsheka’s message encouraging the candidates to act as refugee advocates.

“We have been working with Finn Church Aid for about a year to expand the complementary pathways project. A lot has been done behind the scenes for the UNICORE programme to reach here and I appreciate FCA being a good partner,” said Mike John Wells – Senior Resettlement Officer at UNHCR Kampala.

A group of young people push trolleys full of luggage on the pathway towards an airport
Some of the candidates arriving at Entebbe International Airport ahead of their flight to Italy. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

FCA assisted at every stage

FCA Uganda played a number of roles throughout the process including information dissemination, career guidance and counseling, scholarship application support, supporting candidates in acquisition of travel documents, visa applications and psychosocial support. The organisation collaborated with UNHCR in Uganda and Italy, as well as the Office of the Prime Minister and the Embassy of Italy to support the pre-departure processes.

The process also led to a new opportunity opening up for potential refugee students.

“As a result of this performance, Italy launched the Sports Corridor as an additional pathway for candidates to pursue their bachelor’s degree in Italy through competence in and contribution to sports.  A list of 38 potential candidates (34 Male and 4 Female) has been shared with UNHCR for selection for this pathway,” said Diana Berocwiny, Complementary Pathways Officer at FCA Uganda.

The scholarship covers a large number of expenses, including, but not limited to: application and tuition fees; books, language training; a monthly stipend; housing; transportation; health insurance; mentoring or psychosocial support, travel costs to the third country and visa fees.

The students are also permitted to undertake work-study or part-time employment.

Scholarship recipients enthusiastic

A smiling woman stands with a trolley full of luggage in front of an airport building. She is smiling.
Umwari Joviale at Entebbe International Airport, Uganda before her flight to Italy. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Umwari Joviale, a Congolese refugee from Rwamwanja, is eager to study international accounting and management at the University of Siena in Italy.

“I am happy that my dream will come true. I dream of reaching far and supporting vulnerable people. Joining the university is a sign that I will.” She tells us.

Joviale came to Uganda with her family in 2014. They were escaping the war in Congo.

“When we got here, Rwamwanja refugee settlement was just a bush. The settlement at the time had a small population. My one and only hope at the time was to be able to eat. I cannot lie to you that I had any other dream then, I just dreamed of having a proper meal. We only received maize and beans, so I always dreamed of eating meat.” She adds.

“I had been studying in Congo, so after settling in the settlement I decided to look for opportunities. Every day I would walk for three hours to UNHCR offices in the settlement, sit at the gate and wait for someone to come and help me.:

After repeated trips to UNHCR offices, Joviale was able to secure funding in 2016 to attend Bugema University and pursued a diploma in accounting.

“I put a lot of effort into my academics and outperformed my peers in class. Now that I have received this UNICORE scholarship, I am grateful that I will continue my education. I will not wait until I graduate from university to start fulfilling my passion of helping girls in Rwamwanja refugee camp and other disadvantaged individuals. I shall begin working on it immediately,” she adds.

Kibrom hopes to develop a novel medication

A young man in a suit and tie stands in a car park looking into the camera with a serious expression
Beyene Kibrom Abrahaley says he wants to change the medical industry in his home country Eritrea. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Beyene Kibrom Abrahaley, an Eritrean refugee, will study medical biotechnology in Italy.  He is appreciative of the scholarship since it advances his goal of changing the medical industry in his home country.

He says, “I have seen many people die, so I hope to find a new drug after my studies so that everyone can live a great life.”

Kibrom escaped his home country because of insecurity and arrived in Uganda via Sudan.

“Smugglers transported me. My journey wasn’t simple; and I still have many traumas from it.  I’m grateful to the government of Uganda and UNHCR for improving my life,” he explains.

“I discovered the UNICORE programme while researching educational options online after relocating to Kampala. and was able to apply and complete the process with FCA’s assistance. I am excited to start on my master’s degree.”

More about the UNICORE programme

The University Corridors for Refugees UNICORE project is promoted by 33 Italian universities with the support of UNHCR, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Caritas Italiana, Diaconia Valdese, Jesuit Refugee Service and other partners.

Today, 7% of refugees have access to higher education compared to only 1% in 2019. This is, however, far below the global average tertiary and higher education enrollment among non-refugees, which stands at more than 40 per cent.

Ahead of this year’s Global Refugee Forum – the world’s largest annual gathering on refugees, to be held in Geneva in December 2023 – UNHCR is urging states and the private sector to come forward with pledges to increase funding for and access to higher education by joining and marking contributions to the 15by30 global pledge on refugee higher education and self-reliance, which aims to achieve enrolment of 15% of refugee youth in higher education by 2030.

Text and Images by Linda Kabuzire

World Refugee Day 2023 – hope away from home in Nakivale

World Refugee Day 2023 – hope away from home in Nakivale, Uganda

Finn Church Aid (FCA) is dedicated to making a profound difference in the lives of refugees residing in Uganda’s refugee settlements. Through the Disaster Relief Funds project, FCA has been able to provide crucial support and educational opportunities to new refugee arrivals in Nakivale Refugee settlement.

Empowering Dreams and Impacting Lives

Ishimwe Emmanuel, an ambitious 18-year-old, had to flee his home in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to escalating violence. His father was killed during the conflict and Ishimwe became the primary source of support for his mother and siblings. Despite adversities, Ishimwe never lost sight of his dream to become a prominent politician.

Taking on multiple responsibilities to generate income, he rented a bicycle to transport and sell water, all while striving to return to school. Ishimwe’s determination paid off when he received scholastic support from FCA, including essential supplies like school bags and books. The impact of this support was profound, reigniting Ishimwe’s motivation to pursue his aspirations and create a positive impact on society.

A teenaged boy in school uniform sits at a desk in a full classroom and holds up a text book to the camera. He is smiling.

Refugees like Ishimwe Emmanuel have experienced extraordinary transformations amidst the challenging circumstances they face.

Reflecting on his journey, Ishimwe shares, “the day I received the scholastic support from FCA, I felt a renewed sense of motivation to pursue my dreams and make a positive impact on society. Their support has been instrumental in helping me believe in myself and my abilities.”

Rediscovering passion for learning

Pauline Tumushime, a resilient thirteen-year-old, who is also from the Democratic Republic of Congo, fled her home country in search of safety and found refuge in Uganda with her family. With her father absent since her early childhood, Pauline’s mother, Nyiramugisha, took on the responsibility of providing for her children.

However, the transition to Uganda presented numerous challenges, making access to education seem like an unattainable dream. It was through FCA’s Youth Engagement Centre in Rubondo zone that Pauline found a renewed sense of hope. Engaging in career guidance and counseling sessions, Pauline rediscovered her passion for learning and the joy of forming connections with her peers.

Supported by her mother and the FCA programme, Pauline is determined to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor and making a difference in the lives of others.

A woman and three girls stand in front of a small hut smiling at the camera

Pauline Tumushiime (Centre) with her mother and two sisters, at their home in Nakivale refugee settlement.

“With the support from my mother and the FCA program, I am now filled with hope and determination. I am grateful for the opportunities that FCA has provided, and I am excited to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.”

Far-reaching impact

The impact of FCA’s commitment to empowering refugee children and youth through education extends far beyond Ishimwe and Pauline.

The Disaster Funds Project has transformed the lives of 1,460 students within Nakivale Refugee settlement. FCA constructed 2 blocks of classrooms at Rubondo Community Secondary School. By providing essential school supplies, career guidance, and psychosocial support, FCA has significantly increased school enrollment and instilled hope in the hearts of young refugees.

 Their stories serve as a testament to the power of education in unlocking potential and fostering resilience in the face of adversity.

A teacher in a classroom bends over the desk of a pupil in a classroom to check some work
Pauline receives guidance from her class teacher in her classroom at Rubondo Primary School, Nakivale.

“At FCA we are proud to celebrate the indomitable spirit of young individuals like Ishimwe and Pauline, who have overcome tremendous challenges and are making remarkable strides towards achieving their dreams,” says Wycliffe Nsheka, FCA’s Uganda Country Director.

“Through our ongoing support, we continue to empower dreams and inspire hope among refugee children and youth, fostering a brighter future for themselves and their communities,” he adds.

“Education can have a transformative impact on the lives of refugees. Together, we can make dreams a reality and bring lasting change to the lives of those in need.”

Text: Kadla Nabakembo

Breaking barriers: FCA Uganda ensures access to education for children with disabilities

Breaking barriers: FCA Uganda ensures access to education for children with disabilities

Leticia Kanyere is a 14-year-old deaf student. She came to Sweswe Special Needs Education (SNE) Unit after her family heard about their inclusivity scheme. She now stays at the boarding school facilities with her friends, and loves it.

Children with disabilities in refugee settlements are especially vulnerable to stigmatisation, exclusion, isolation, and violence. These barriers limit their abilities to access education, essential services, form relationships with their peers, and foster psychosocial well-being.

“I like the school because it’s easy to make friends. We easily understand each other because we use the same language. In my village, only a few people understand sign language so it’s hard to communicate,” says Leticia, who is doing well in class and wants to become a hairdresser in the future.

A Ugandan girl sitting at a desk in a classroom.
Leticia Kanyere is loving her time at Sweswe SNE. Here people know sign language, and communicating is easier. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

In order to provide inclusive education, Finn Church Aid (FCA) constructed a fully-fledged Special Needs Education Unit at Sweswe Primary School in Kyaka II refugee settlement. The unit was a big undertaking and came together thanks to funding from several donors. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland paid for the unit itself. Then, the U.S department of State, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) supported the construction of a fence around the SNE unit to enhance the safety of the learners. Finally, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) supports operations in the school.

The support provided to the SNE unit enhances closer supervision, opportunities for safeguarding, and the ability to identify and address children’s psychological, social, and medical needs. This fosters an inclusive environment where learners can stay in school and feel supported.

The facility launched in 2022 and supports learners from both Kyaka II and the neighbouring Rwamwanja refugee settlement. It opened its doors to children and adolescents with disabilities from host and refugee communities, bringing enormous relief to both the children and their families.

Alex Dusabe, 16, also enjoys coming to school. “I used to have many challenges back home but when I came to Sweswe SNE, I made friends with the teachers, and they support me,” he says.

A Ugandan boy in sitting at a desk in a classroom, with classmates behind him.
Many of the students at Sweswe feel the school has helped them make friends. Alex Dusabe is no exception, and has several friends among his classmates. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

Finn Church Aid trains teachers at the facility in special needs education and management so they can both engage with and take care of the learners.

The inclusive environment at the school makes it possible for learners with special needs to stay in school. The blocks at the facility have been constructed with ramps and rails and are accessible by wheelchair. The classrooms are brightly lit to help the visually impaired. Further improvements are planned to make students’ lives easier.

“The toilet facilities are near the dormitories and far from the dining hall. I would be grateful if we could get a boys’ toilet facility closer to the dining,” says Alex, who has a physical disability.

A picture of a Ugandan youth with crutches on the school yard
Alex Dusabe is actively involved in suggesting improvements to his school. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

Living Businge, a sign language teacher at the SNE Unit with 12 years’ experience, encourages adolescents and children with disabilities to go to school and access their right to quality education.

He’s had a long interest in the deaf community and decided to learn sign language so he could better support them as a teacher.

“Inclusive education provides learning opportunities to all individuals and caters to the diversity among learners. Among people with physical, sensory, mental, and intellectual disabilities, exclusion from education is most pronounced. The SNE unit at Sweswe presents a chance to eliminate the obstacles to participation and learning for students with severe disabilities that mainstream education cannot accommodate,” says Filbert Idha, the Education Technical Lead at Finn Church Aid.

A picture of bunkbeds in the girls' dormitory.
The boarding school creates a safe environment for the learners, who do not have to travel long distances to school everyday. Here, learners with a physically disability sleep in the lower bunks. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

According to Uganda’s national Education Response Plan (ERP) for refugees and host communities, only 2% of learners with disabilities are enrolled in school (global average: 10%). Nationally, only 172,864 children with special needs (approximately 2% of total primary level enrollment) were enrolled in primary schools in 2022.

Disabilities among children who are refugees are reported to be mobility, cognition and vision, but most commonly anxiety and trauma related disorders.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

“Getting an education means I learn to think in a different way”

“Getting an education means I learn to think in a different way” – young refugees are getting access to university studies in Uganda

For many bright young refugees getting access to higher education can be next to impossible. Tuition fees are high and the distance to proper universities long. That is why Finn Church Aid, in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), supports young refugees with full scholarships to be able to go to university and obtain a degree.

“Studying at a university was a desire I always had, but I didn’t know how to get there”, says Anita Magret, a 24-year-old second-year student of Social Work and Social Administration at the Ugandan Christian University, one of the top universities in Uganda.

She is sitting at a fireplace outside a few small huts in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, where she lives with her aunt while away from university for her internship. Many of the students return home for internships or when they are on leave.

Anita Margret sitting outside her hut
Anita Magret always wanted to study at a university, but never knew how to achieve her dream.

Another Bidi Bidi resident and university student is Luate Richard, 22. He studies Microfinance at Kyambogo University in Kampala.

“Being able to study at a university means a lot. Nobody in my family had studied at a higher level before, so this opportunity means a lot for my family”, he tells us.

Both Luate Richard and Anita Magret escaped South Sudan with their families during clashes in 2016, and have been living in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement since then.

From refugee camp to university

The refugee settlement is one of the largest in the world, home to an estimated 270,000 refugees, over half of them children. Still, the number of learners advancing all the way to university is miniscule due to manifold challenges.

That is why Finn Church Aid, together with UNHCR, are supporting 53 learners with full scholarships. The scholarship makes it possible for students to attend their university of choice.d

“My hostel, my tuition and my upkeep are all covered. My family wouldn’t have any possibility to cover these kinds of expenses, so this is an answer to my prayers”, says Luate Richard.

Luate Richard stands in front of his hut in Bidi Bidi refugee camp. He studies Microfinance at Kyambogo University in Kampala .

“When it was confirmed that I got the scholarship my whole family was so full of joy, everyone was in tears. It was not easy to reach this point, but when I made it, everybody was very happy and excited”, says Anita Magret.

In addition, the scholarship also covered the unexpected expenses that came with COVID-19. The pandemic forced students into remote studies. Since access to the internet can be quite expensive in Uganda, that was covered too.

Bringing their talents back to their communities

Both Luate Richard and Anita Magret chose to do their mandatory internships in the refugee camp. In the future, they hope to be able to work in their communities.

“In microfinancing we try to find active poor, the ones who are willing to start businesses, finance their ventures and give them financial knowledge so that their business will be successful. I would like to do this in my own community”, says Luate Richard.

Anita Magret also intends to use her education to better people’s lives.

Anita wants to use her education to help people back in her community.

“I feel like I needed to go far to be able to come back and help people with what I learned in school. I want to improve the social well-being of my community and others in need.”

She already feels the opportunity of getting out of the refugee camp, going to university and meeting people with diverse backgrounds, has expanded her thinking.

“The change has been huge.  I can really notice it now that I am back for my internship. I notice how I can bring everything that I learned into my work”, says Anita Magret, who is interning with the organization Hope Health Action, giving counseling and guidance to people in vulnerable states.

“It really moves me, when I am able to help. It feels like I chose the right field of work.”

Education opens up horizons

Luate Richard also sees education as a tool that opens up new horizons.

“Education is so important. Life is hard in the refugee camp, and it is easy to fall into a mindset where hardship and poverty is normal.  Getting an education means I learn to think in a different way. Through that I have the opportunity to change things for myself and for my community”, says Luate Richard.

The young university students also see their studies as a possibility to be role models for their younger peers. Anita Magret thinks it is important that young people in the refugee camp are able to see that it is possible to achieve your dreams.

“I have been giving career talks for girls who are in secondary school. It is great to be able to show that you can access better things if you put your heart and efforts into it. I want to give the younger girls courage and hope, and make them believe in themselves.”

Text: Linda Kabuzire
Photos: Björn Udd