Welcoming Little Amal to Boston
From September 7-9, Boston, the home of RefugePoint’s headquarters, will be welcoming a very special guest named Little Amal. Little Amal, whose name means “hope” in Arabic, is a 12-foot puppet that symbolizes a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl in search of her mother. Little Amal has traveled to more than a dozen countries and has met more than one million people to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children. Boston is the first stop on Little Amal’s 6,000-mile journey across the United States.
How does Little Amal’s visit relate to RefugePoint?
A commitment to child protection underpins all that we do at RefugePoint. In this blog post, we go into detail about how our Child Protection Experts throughout Africa and the Middle East support refugee children like Little Amal who have been separated from their families.
In addition to the work our Child Protection Experts do, our child protection staff at RefugePoint’s Urban Refugee Protection Program (URPP) in Nairobi, Kenya work to ensure that refugee children who are at-risk, as well as unaccompanied and separated children, are safe from abuse, violence, exploitation, and neglect, and have access to lasting solutions that are in their best interest.
How does RefugePoint support refugee children through our Urban Refugee Protection Program (URPP) in Nairobi, Kenya?
Many urban refugee children have lost their traditional support systems (extended family, neighbors, teachers), leaving them especially susceptible to violence, abuse and neglect, as well as various forms of gender-based violence (GBV) such as sexual abuse, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and survival sex, leading to continued trauma. Their schooling is also frequently interrupted, often put on hold for years.
For children living with their parents or caretakers, we focus on supporting the family with food, rent, medical support, counseling, and livelihood assistance as the frontline of protection. We also support school enrollment and focus on education as an important intervention for combating poverty and providing children with immediate protection and opportunities to integrate in their new communities.
For children who are unaccompanied – either separated from their parents or orphaned – we conduct Best Interest Determinations (BIDs) to assess their situation and determine the best way forward.
All children have the right to a family and families have the right to care for their children. RefugePoint is committed in identifying unaccompanied refugee children and adults who have been separated from their families, and supporting them to resettle safely or reunite with family. Direct casework is done by RefugePoint staff members to increase access to resettlement and family reunification for refugees. This includes conducting case management, completing best interest procedures, and providing referrals to partners for legal services or to address other direct services
How many refugee children are living in Nairobi and other urban areas in Kenya?
As of June 30, 2023, Kenya’s urban areas host roughly 95,522 refugees and asylum seekers including 88,006 in Nairobi, 2,099 in Nakuru, and 5,417 in Mombasa, which represents about 15% of the total refugee population in Kenya. Around 68% of the overall refugee population in Kenya are children. There are 30,935 refugee children in Kenya’s urban areas. Among them, there are over 3,000 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) living in urban areas like Nairobi, as well as other children in need of protection.
In 2022, RefugePoint helped Baraka,* a 14-year-old separated child who was living in Nairobi, to resettle to a safe, new country. Baraka experienced a tremendous amount of hardship in his short life. When our staff first met Baraka in March 2016, he was in a dire situation—he required urgent medical care, clothing, counseling, and a safe place to live. Baraka’s recovery journey was incredible. Just before Baraka departed for resettlement, he was able to smile, chat, and create artwork – seemingly simple acts that he could not do just months before.
“I love riding my bicycle. I also love drawing, particularly animals like elephants because they are big. My teacher taught me how to draw; that is why I enjoy drawing. Among the pictures I have drawn are a horse and my friend Ben* who lives here with me,” Baraka shared with us.
After a best interest determination (BID) was conducted to assess Baraka’s situation, UNHCR determined that the best long-term solution for Baraka was resettlement. Many RefugePoint team members and partner organizations collaborated to support Baraka in his recovery and reaching safety and stability through resettlement. Children like Baraka motivate our team to do the work that we do!
RefugePoint’s Child Protection team in Nairobi has assisted over 1,000 children to access education as a protection measure, and supported nearly 400 children to access safe living environments.
Follow along as we walk with Little Amal in Boston
For real-time updates, be sure to follow us on Instagram as we walk with Little Amal throughout her Boston tour.
For the full Little Amal Boston schedule, click here.
Want to learn more about our work supporting unaccompanied and separated children? Check out these resources:
2) Watch this 20-second reel of a Congolese mother whom RefugePoint helped to reunite with her children and husband.
3) Watch this 30-second reel for International Day of the Girl Child about an unaccompanied Rwandan refugee minor who came to the US and built her life here and is now on RefugePoint’s board.
4) Read this op ed about reuniting unaccompanied children with their parents which highlights RefugePoint’s work to help a Yazidi child reunite with his mother in Canada and the global need to reunite children with parents.
5) Read this op ed about the importance of reuniting Ukrainian children with their parents based on RefugePoint’s global work to support family reunion efforts.