Three-part stories from the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth blog series : “Meet 10 leaders who can inspire you to change the world.”
COUNSELING AND SUPPORTING STUDENTS
Ella Ininahazwe, 26, is a graduate of Health Care Management and works as a Refugee College Guidance Counsellor with the organization Kepler in Rwanda, and Southern New Hampshire University in Kenya (Kakuma refugee camp).
Originally from Burundi, Ella came to Rwanda in 2015 as a student and refugee. Ella is determined to increase the number of refugee youth who can access higher education and refused to let the pandemic slow her down.
When it hit, refugee students who were attending university had to return to their camps and pursue online education. Due to issues accessing computers and internet connectivity problems, however, many of these students were at risk of seeing their online studies being interrupted as well.
With the help of Kepler and UNHCR, Ella made sure that over 150 students in refugee camps in Rwanda (mostly Kiziba refugee camp) were equipped with reliable electricity, strong internet connections, and laptops. As a contingency for the times when power cuts, she has organized student discussion groups to ensure that students can continue learning until it returns.
In addition to all of this, she has been conducting in-person check-ins with students, advisors, and teachers to ensure the well-being of students and their good standing in school. She has also contributed in the Tertiary Refugee Student Network & Global Advisory Youth Council’s Twitter and Instagram COVID campaigns, which highlights what refugees are doing to support their communities by sharing videos of their work.
Currently, Ella and her colleague Sadiki are also working on establishing an Africa-wide network of refugee college guidance counselors, including the development of the training curriculum and teaching material.
They are also organizing a conference to be held on World Refugee Day with various partners working in tertiary programs. College Refugee Guidance Counselors will be hosting discussions with students about the pathways that have been implemented during this crisis. Ella is motivated by seeing the impact her work has.
“You feel like you are doing something great when you see a smile on someone else’s face”.
CONDUCTING OUTREACH AND EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES
The lack of information and spread of misinformation is one of the biggest fears surrounding this virus. Without proper knowledge, the virus may continue to spread, infect people, and continue to overstretch medical systems.
Youth volunteers from YWCA Ethiopia have been raising awareness through various multimedia visual campaigns in their communities.
On social media, they have been designing and sharing educational posters advocating for awareness and prevention of COVID-19, written in both English and Amharic (Ethiopia’s national language).
They also designed a booklet containing information on COVID-19, but also on how to deal with abuse, violence, and stress, all of which have risen since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition to this sensitization campaign, YWCA Ethiopia has adapted their Safe and Inclusive Cities Project (operated in collaboration with Plan International) to address current health issues by organizing activities such as creating educational bumper stickers for public transportation vehicles, drawing queue lines to encourage social distancing while people are waiting to board buses, and donating hygiene kits to various communities.
PAYING IT FORWARD
Felix Sesay is a 24-year-old Nursing student at St. Karol’s School of Nursing living in Accra, Ghana.
Born in Sierra Leone, he moved to Ghana in 2004 as a refugee, where he continued his schooling, eventually earning a DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) scholarship to attend university.
When the coronavirus hit Ghana, schools were forced to close, meaning that Felix had to return to Krisan Refugee Camp. Once there, he decided to put his nursing skills to good use: he has been spending his days teaching precautionary techniques to fellow refugees, encouraging them to stay safe, and, in the evenings, he helps students with schoolwork to make sure that they stay up to date with their lessons.
Although there have been restrictions on gatherings, Felix works hard to reach as many people as possible. Through door-to-door visits, student group lessons for members of each section of the camp, and social media posts, he hopes to reach all 750 inhabitants of the camp.
“Personally, I have been helped my whole life”, he explains, “it is my duty to help others”.
Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, Felix was an active member of the community, offering health screenings and advice, advocating for his fellow students, and attending the Global Refugee Forum as an official refugee co-sponsor of the Education theme.
He hopes to continue this work through various initiatives, notably advocacy work with former refugees and work to help support the education of young refugees in the camp.
Footnotes Curated from the UN Youth Envoy blog series "Meet 10 leaders who can inspire you to change the world" https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/category/blog/
© 2020 Africa Renewal
For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus