Scouting brings hope and life-changing opportunity to young people at Dadaab Refugee Camp
AVSI Foundation Kenya in collaboration with the Kenya Scouts Association is implementing a Scout project in the Dadaab Refugee Camp - the world's largest refugee camp - for the refugee young people and the host community in primary and secondary schools. This is first of its kind in the region which has been in the recent years got the world’s attention (or at least the regional attention) all for the wrong reason; the increase of terror attacks by Al-Shabbab terror group from Somalia.
The group is said to thrive on religious radicalization of the youths by enlisting idle and jobless youths and offering them some form of engagement through training and indoctrination. It is said that the Al-Shabbab recruiters have identified Dadaab Refugee Camp as a fertile ground where young people are gullible and fall prey due to their camp life status.
To counter such thinking AVSI Foundation Kenya funded by the American people through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM) initiated Scouting for boys and girls in all the 5 refugee camps in Dadaab and its environs with an objective to tap on the rich human resources, that is the young people in the region and provide them with robust programs for the young people provided in the Scouting movement worldwide. The project has been on for the last one year now and results are very promising.
Sheer enthusiasm in Scouting among the young people
Young people in Dadaab are keen and eager to learn and embrace new ideas from “the outside world” that gives them a sense of direction and belonging to the other young people in the world.
The Scout movement seems to be addressing this yearning by young people, seeing how the movement has attracted huge numbers and the way the new Scouts are giving their all in participating in the Scouting activities and feeling unified with the other youths worldwide through the universal Scouting principles - the Scout Law and Promise.
The flexible and youth friendly life skills training methods adapted by the Kenya Scouts Association trainers in a non-examination environment has been a big excitement for the Scouts who have gained a broad range of knowledge on issues affecting the day to day lives of the young people in the region.
Scouting creating a youth-led wave of peace
Scouting has brought together the host community and the refugee young people in a meaningful and peaceful joint activities and training. The joint outdoor Scouting activities focusing on environmental conservation and effective utilization of locally available resources has brought new excitement amongst the young people in Dadaab.
Inter-patrol joint activities where Scouts have been undertaking competitive activities in friendly manner moving away from the culture of intense negative inter school competitions that mostly turn out be hostile inter-clans strife
Inter-camps joint camping brought together boy and girl Scouts from all the camps and winning public schools (Host community schools) in a common ground for peaceful competitions and joint activities.
A an emerging deep sense of patriotism for the boys and girls to their country of origin is clearly observable when the boy and girl Scouts congregate in joint Scout activities and when the Scouts are invited to entertain guests and visitors in the camps and at public functions. The Scouts lead the Somali national anthem so passionately that adult refugees are left in tears.
The energy and enthusiasm the girl Scouts have embraced Scouting activities is quite admirable. Unlike in other outdoor activities where girls mostly take the back seat and have to be given some form of affirmative action to move, the girl Scout patrols compare favorably with their boys counterparts. Some three girls patrols have consistently easily out-shined the boys patrols.
Leadership skills development is the other unexpected result emerging from both boys and girls engaging in the Scout programs. The patrol leaders are sharpening their skills in patrol management such as command, coordination, team mobilization, collaboration and Scout projects presentation skills. Interestingly two siblings – a sister and a brother, both patrol leaders in Hagadera Camp are outshining each other in patrol leadership with a lot of admiration from their mother who offered to accompany them.
Story and photographs courtesy of Pauline Kagiri, a Rover Scout Volunteer from Kenya Scouts Association who is assisting with training and mentorship of the young girl Scouts at Dadaab Refugee Camp.