Dollo Ado, 18 January 2012 – Towards the end of 2011, JRS officially opened the first phase of its latest project, offering long-term assistance to Somali refugees in Melkadida camp, Dollo Ado, through education services, psychosocial counselling, and sports and recreational activities for young people. JRS seeks to provide tangible skills to Somali refugees in Melkadida camp ensuring their time spent in exile is not wasted.
The camp, based on the southern border with Somalia, hosts some 40,000 refugees of more than 950,000 forcibly displaced by armed conflict and severe drought, considered the worst to hit the region in 30 years. Although refugee arrivals in Dollo Ado have dropped since the summer – from thousands to hundreds per week – continued fighting and instability in Somalia makes it unlikely they will return home soon.
After months of preparation and planning delayed by climatic and logistical challenges, infrastructural difficulties and insecurity, five experienced JRS staff members arrived in Dollo Ado in early October to begin establishing systems and designing detailed project activity plans.
"After months in the camp, the youngsters want more than food and water, they want a future. In this context, education and skills training are the best synonyms for future", said JRS Dollo Ado Project Director, Gonzalo Sánchez-Terán.
A new beginning
The first activities to get off the ground have been the adult literacy classes and skills training courses, which will benefit some 625 refugees in 2012. Moreover, a small number of sports and drama activities have already taken place, as part of the JRS strategy to promote team-work and non-violent competition.
Literacy classes focus on maths and English language with issues around peace-building woven into the curriculum. The skills training includes courses on tailoring, beauty, and weaving in combination with business management and bookkeeping. Upon successful completion refugees will be offered start-up grants to establish small businesses.
The JRS needs assessment highlighted gaps not covered by other agencies in the areas of psychosocial support to families and communities. Using participatory approaches such as drama and individual outreach, JRS will reach refugees and provide counselling and forums for expressing their experiences and concerns. Teams will also provide training to help community members and refugees become peer psychosocial workers.
Working closely with the pre-existing youth committee at the camp, JRS has begun organising sports activities, after establishing a club and supplying equipment to young refugees. Four football teams have been set up and JRS hopes to organise a tournament with a team of local Ethiopians in the area. Future plans include mobilising two female volleyball teams and organising workshops for young refugees on health and hygiene and environmental issues.
In addition, one of the two JRS drama groups gave its first performance to celebrate the 16 Days of Activism at the camp, which focused on awareness-raising about gender-based violence (GBV). JRS plans to work with the drama groups throughout the coming months to use music and plays to raise awareness of important issues relating to camp life, such as hygiene promotion. JRS provides all the material for the groups, including drums, guitars and clothing.
Construction, due to begin soon, has been delayed by rising building costs, the time required to obtain construction permits, and the sourcing of suitable contractors. JRS is working hard to get the necessary facilities built, thanks to the gracious and positive response of donors to the Dollo Ado appeal. Plans include the construction of a multi-purpose hall for sports and recreational activities, the building of a primary school to support primary education in the camp, the building of skills training classrooms, and the construction of the JRS offices.