RefugePoint expands into Rwanda, Zambia, and Ivory Coast

In 2005, RefugePoint was operational in one African country – Kenya. Since that time we have expanded to 18 locations in 14 countries across the continent. Our newest efforts include projects in refugee camps and in urban settings in Rwanda, Zambia, and the Ivory Coast. RefugePoint is also preparing to expand to address the needs of South Sudanese refugee children.

In Africa’s Great Lakes region where RefugePoint has been operating since 2009, RefugePoint’s focus has been on increasing resettlement opportunities for refugees who have fled the protracted conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While RefugePoint has worked in Burundi and Uganda, this is our first year to deploy resettlement and children protection experts to Rwanda. In November, we will be sending additional staff to assist with the resettling of 10,000 Congolese refugees from Rwanda by 2016.

Also in 2014, RefugePoint deployed staff to Zambia for the first time. Zambia, like Rwanda, has been a country of asylum for Congolese refugees. In Solwezi, Zambia, our child protection expert is interviewing refugee children to identify concerns and coordinate the provision of needed services. Without these assessments, many refugee children remain at risk indefinitely, unable to access solutions including resettlement.

In West Africa, where refugee populations are smaller and do not garner the same level of attention as the Congolese, the identification of refugees for resettlement has been virtually nonexistent. To address this gap, RefugePoint began working in the Ivory Coast to facilitate the resettlement of several hundred vulnerable refugee children from Liberia. RefugePoint also initiated efforts in Liberia to protect Ivorian refugee children (there are cross flows of refugees between the Ivory Coast and Liberia). However, due to the Ebola epidemic, RefugePoint evacuated the staff person from Liberia, […]

By |October 10th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on RefugePoint expands into Rwanda, Zambia, and Ivory Coast

The Good Lie film and refugee protection

The Good Lie is a feature film starring Reese Witherspoon about the resettlement to the US of the refugee children known as the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan. These children escaped the Sudanese government’s attacks against its southern people between 1983 and 2005 that claimed more than two million lives and displaced many more millions.

Among the 3,600 young adults who came to the US, only 89 were women. Yet there were at least hundreds of other young women in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp who shared the same story of flight and persecution as the Lost Boys. They too had fled the violence, walked up to one thousand miles, and faced starvation and attacks before finally reaching the relative safety of Kakuma.

But in the camp the surviving orphaned and unaccompanied girls faced new dangers. As they reached the age of 12 or 13 they were often prevented from attending school, and many were forced into marriages against their will. They fell through the cracks of humanitarian assistance and became commodities to be bartered and sold for a bride price.

RefugePoint’s early efforts included enabling some of these refugees to resettle to the US and reunite with their siblings. RefugePoint has had a presence in Kakuma camp for many years working to protect unaccompanied children, enable refugees to resettle to the US, and most recently to respond to the emergency influx of new South Sudanese refugees.

With the eruption of conflict again in 2013, approximately 1.8 million people have been displaced from their homes in South Sudan, including nearly 500,000 who have fled to Kenya, Ethiopia and other neighboring countries.

The Good Lie debuts at a critical time in South Sudan’s history. The film is raising attention and […]

By |October 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The Good Lie film and refugee protection

RefugePoint’s Group Counseling Offers Survivors Support

When Kasoke first arrived at RefugePoint’s office, the Congolese refugee mother was frail from emaciation. She and her young son were malnourished and in need of critical medical attention. RefugePoint immediately enrolled her small family in our food program and medical services. As weeks passed and the staff learned more about her background, the young mother was also recommended for group counseling to address the sexual trauma she had endured in her native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Currently, RefugePoint is working with our partners to help 50,000 Congolese refugees resettle to the US over the next few years. This will be the largest resettlement commitment out of Africa in US history. Like Kasoke, many of the refugee women to be resettled are survivors of sexual violence. At a recent human rights forum, a senior United Nations official reaffirmed that rape remains alarmingly prevalent in DRC, and is especially brutal.

As a survivor of sexual violence, Kasoke presented many of the complex medical and emotional symptoms RefugePoint routinely sees in female, as well as male, clients. Reticent to share the events that forced her to flee DRC, Kasoke often fluctuated between being withdrawn and outwardly suspicious of strangers and staff.

In 2012, RefugePoint introduced our group counseling program to assist survivors like Kasoke. The sessions are designed to provide clients with emotional support as they transition towards self-sufficiency. Over the course of six weeks, clients have the opportunity to collectively grieve and establish critical social networks in Nairobi, a city with more than 100,000 refugees. In urban slums and refugee camps, the stigma of rape and other forms of sexual violence often results in victims being ostracized by relatives and their broader community, elevating their […]

By |May 15th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on RefugePoint’s Group Counseling Offers Survivors Support

Refugee Community Health Workers Reach Thousands

Asha’s* tiny frame does not do justice to the huge impact this 23-year-old Somali woman is making as a community health worker (CHW) in her refugee neighborhood in Nairobi. Since the launch of RefugePoint’s community health program in 2011, our small team of CHWs has provided more than 5,500 urban refugees with critical health information and direction on how to better access existing medical services in their areas.

 

According to RefugePoint Medical Unit Manager Esther Kamau, “two years ago our outreach staff discovered that many of our refugee clients and their neighbors either did not know they could visit local medical clinics or were unable to access services due to cultural and language barriers.”

To address this problem, RefugePoint partnered with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to develop the community health worker program, which involves employing refugees to collect health-related data in their local neighborhoods and to disseminate essential health information in their native languages to their fellow community members.

“I always make sure that refugees know that I’m also a refugee so that they feel comfortable letting me into their homes,” explained Asha, who joined the team in January 2013 and works extensively in Somali neighborhoods.

Each week, Asha and her colleagues conduct approximately 20 home visits. They talk to refugee families about nutrition, sanitation, maternal health care, and other related topics. They also refer families to clinics where they can receive affordable medical care. If a particular health issue seems to be a common concern for many families, Asha and her colleagues will organize community education forums for larger groups. This year, Asha has been especially focused on distributing water purification tablets and directing refugees to nearby sources of clean water during her 30-minute home visits […]

By |April 8th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Refugee Community Health Workers Reach Thousands

Medical Unit Manager helps make health insurance available to all refugees in Kenya

Esther Kamau likes to joke that she didn’t join RefugePoint, but that RefugePoint joined her. This is because Esther was the first person RefugePoint (then Mapendo International) hired after Sasha Chanoff and Dr. John Wagacha Burton founded the organization in 2005.

Leaving behind a comfortable, stable career as a staff clinician in the private sector, Esther joined the nascent organization as a full time clinical officer. In her position, she provided the most vulnerable refugees in Nairobi with emergency medical care and referrals to critical health services. Among her first clients were dozens of refugees who had been denied resettlement due to their HIV positive status.

Nine years later, Esther is still with the organization and continues to make a significant impact in refugees’ lives throughout Nairobi. Promoted to manager of RefugePoint’s medical unit, Esther oversees the organization’s on-site medical clinic, Community Health Worker program, public health research initiatives, and the medical unit staff. Daily, the clinic provides between 25-30 vulnerable urban refugees with direct treatment, prescriptions, and/or hospital referrals. In 2013, the medical clinic exceeded its goal of treating 1,350 refugees by more than 38%. Most commonly, RefugePoint medical staff diagnosed and treated respiratory illnesses, peptic ulcer disease, hypertension, and diabetes.

Esther’s most notable achievement this year has been her successful brokering with Kenya’s National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) to allow refugees in the country access to the same medical insurance benefits as Kenyans. For the first time ever, all refugees will be eligible to access insurance through the national health care system for approximately US $2 per month.

“This development follows two years of persistent negotiation and advocacy by Esther and her entire medical team,” said RefugePoint Urban Program Coordinator Paul Karanja. “Under her leadership, she […]

By |April 8th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Medical Unit Manager helps make health insurance available to all refugees in Kenya

Sasha Chanoff Wins 2013 Gleitsman International Activist Award

Advocate for refugees in Africa to be honored at November 5th ceremony

Cambridge, MA—The Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) has named social entrepreneur Sasha Chanoff this year’s recipient of the Gleitsman International Activist Award for his tireless work as Founder and Executive Director of RefugePoint, a nonprofit organization that protects and finds lasting solutions for refugees in extreme danger. The award, given biennially to a leader who has “improved the quality of life abroad and inspired others to do the same,” will be presented to Chanoff at a ceremony in Cambridge on November 5th.

After working in Africa for both the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration, Sasha founded RefugePoint in 2005 to help the most vulnerable refugee populations— Congolese, Darfuri, Sudanese Lost Girls, and others—rebuild their lives. To date, RefugePoint has referred more than 19,000 refugees for resettlement to countries worldwide and the organization’s efforts in Nairobi, Kenya have served another 8,000 urban refugees locally.

“Sasha’s transformational leadership in the field of social justice and humanitarianism has been extraordinary. In the worst African refugee crises, RefugePoint has saved the lives of thousands of the most at-risk displaced women and children,” said David Gergen, co-director of the Center for Public Leadership. ”

“The deeper impact of Sasha’s efforts is also seen in his organization’s work with governments, NGOs, and nonprofits to expand access to long-term solutions.  Sasha is an exemplar of an activist who has tirelessly adapted to the many challenges in his path through innovation and collaboration,” said Casey Otis-Cote, director of CPL’s Gleitsman Program in Leadership for Social Change.

In accepting the award, Chanoff identified his colleagues as a primary reason for the organization’s effectiveness.

“RefugePoint’s success is attributable to […]

By |October 22nd, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Sasha Chanoff Wins 2013 Gleitsman International Activist Award

RefugePoint on WBUR’s Here & Now

RefugePoint Founder and Executive Director Sasha Chanoff and Yar Ayuel, one of 89 Sudanese girls who came to the United States along with the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” are interviewed on WBUR’s Here & Now on March 25th in advance of CBS’ 60 Minutes special on the former refugee children resettled to the United States in 2000. 

Listen to the program here. 

By |March 31st, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on RefugePoint on WBUR’s Here & Now

Boston Globe: How the lost girls became the forgotten girls

Read Executive Director Sasha Chanoff’s Op-Ed in the Boston Globe about the forgotten refugee girls of Sudan.

 

By |March 28th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Boston Globe: How the lost girls became the forgotten girls

RefugePoint highlighted in Women’s Refugee Commission report

In a recent report by the Women’s Refugee Commission, RefugePoint is cited as one of a handful of organizations that effectively provides livelihood support to urban refugees. RefugePoint identifies refugees through our urban protection program and offers people life-stabilizing support. The innovative nature of our programs is illustrated in the report by refugees who, when interviewed, referenced RefugePoint as providing essential livelihood services. To download the full report and recommendations, click here.

By |March 27th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on RefugePoint highlighted in Women’s Refugee Commission report

The Cracks in Refugee Communities

In my eight months working with RefugePoint, I’ve often been impressed and moved by the strength of the communities refugees have created for themselves in their new home. Most of our clients seem to have a story about other refugees—strangers—helping them in those first desperate hours after arrival, giving them shelter in already crowded rooms or sharing already meager meals. Though refugees have often seen firsthand how fragile the bonds that tie us together can be, those experiences seem to have bred not pessimism and suspicion but an even more fervent belief in the ideals of community, generosity, and fellowship.

But even within the close-knit refugee community, there are those who fall through the cracks. Recently, I met a man named Hassan*, who fled to Kenya after witnessing his entire family perish when their house was shelled. Plagued by chronic ulcers that give him uncontrollable diarrhea, he felt too ashamed to ask other refugees for shelter. He ended up living in a junkyard, holed up in an old truck trailer half-filled with dirty tractor tires. He had to plead with nearby business owners daily to use their bathrooms, and cooked whatever food he could beg or scrounge each day over an open brazier lent to him by the junkyard guards. When I asked him what was most difficult about his living situation, he took a long time to answer—there were too many hardships to choose from. Finally, shaking his head, he mentioned the chill that crept through his unglazed windows every night, easily penetrating his thin cotton blanket. “It would get so cold,” he said, “I couldn’t even dream.”

 

RefugePoint recently moved Hassan into a room in another family’s apartment where he will have a real […]

By |March 20th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The Cracks in Refugee Communities