The last two years have seen the world involuntarily re-focused in all ways. That the whole world was literally brought to a standstill is something that was unheard of by many of the eight billion people alive today.
With little to no time and overstretched resources, governments, private companies, faith organizations, development actors, learning institutions, families and individuals all had to adjust to a new normal. The effects were dire. From hundreds of thousands of deaths globally, stretched health systems, loss of jobs, discontinued education, family divisions, community strife and heightened mental health cases. Yet some communities faced these effects in more drastic ways than others.
The refugee community in camps such as Kakuma in Kenya is one such community whose frail living conditions were only worsened. These are often characterized by high illiteracy levels, malnutrition, limited access to food and water, broken or non-existent health systems, uncaring or no leadership at all, and very limited resources. This is further compounded by the fact that these refugees are always surrounded by conflict. These challenges added to the global pandemic totally changed the fortunes of these refuges.
As it would be expected in such times, everyone looks up to their leadership to not only give guidance, but also provide hope and secure sufficient resources for the troubled community, because as John C. Maxwell opined, everything rises and falls on leadership.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership”John C. Maxwell
But the refugees in Kakuma camp and surrounding villages were chanced to have Daud Yare, an alumnus of ELF-Africa as their son. For he swiftly swung into action; planned for support, mobilized resources, and organized his community to wade through these unchartered waters stronger together. Daud confesses that he was not always a hero. That he never imagined he would shepherd his people through such a life-threatening enemy but credits his courage to his time in ELF-Africa as one of the cohort seven fellows. Here he says he learnt real leadership, creating agency, and applying the spirit of Ubuntu.
The ELF Fellowship is a leadership development and mentorship program that seeks to raise, nurture, and deploy emerging leaders who are values-based, ethical, selfless, creative, and embody the tenets of Pan-Africanism. In this fellowship issues around self-awareness, leadership skills, communication, advocacy, root cause analysis, and gender among others are drilled down to create the very basic understanding with a view of helping the Fellows to identify challenges within their communities, design solutions for them, mobilize human and financial resources, to reverse the effects of the same.
In his time as Fellow and with his pastoral background in mind, Daud was particularly intrigued by the fusion of transformative leadership and community service an avenue for socio-economic development. He right away knew this was going to be his path and hence imbibed in some more in a bid to raise his capacity to address the challenges his community has struggled with from time immemorial.
Daud Yare conducting a public awareness session in Kakuma refugee camp
The deeper the fellowship sessions went on, the more his passion was fired up. And by the time he finished his time, it was clear that youth leadership, advocacy, and community service were going to be his tools of trade for the benefit of his pastoral community that lived in constant fear, thanks to the insecurity that has regrettably become the identity of the region.
Armed with knowledge, skills, connections, and a network of mentors, facilitators, and other fellows he could call upon for counsel and sound-boarding, he was ready to take the plunge of painting Kakuma with hope, and nothing was going to stop him.
Before long, Kakuma READ was registered with the vision being to support refugees and host communities live harmoniously and thrive in every possible way. This he says was driven by his deep understanding of what it means to be displaced and to have nowhere to call home, having experienced it firsthand. Since inception, with support from other parties, Kakuma READ has championed peaceful co-existence, mediated peace between conflicting parties, and preached non-violence within the refugee camp and beyond. Daud has continued to employ the skills learnt from this fellowship to mobilize, organize, engage, and implement workshops that seeks empowerment of refugees and young people from host communities.
As such when Covid-19 came, information flow was a critical tool to reduce the rate of infection, demystify certain myths and counter disinformation. In Kakuma this was a much-needed intervention as fear was causing more harm than the pandemic itself. It was here that Daud knew the time had come for him to put his newly learnt communication and advocacy skills to play.
With friends of Kakuma READ, they developed simple, relatable, and easy to dispense material which they used to create awareness, allay fears, and encourage the community into best practice to lessen the effects of the pandemic.
Among other things, Daud and his Kakuma READ friends picked awareness messages from the ministry of health and the World Health Organization and reproduced them in different local languages. They then took turns going round the refugee camp and across the host communities disseminating these messages. They even shared them from phone to phone and where there were internet challenges, they transferred these audio files via Bluetooth. Kakuma READ also held public awareness forums where they distributed face masks and taught people how to remain safe, what to do when one manifests Covid-like symptoms. Daud and his organization enlisted volunteers whom they trained and put on standby as first responders whenever any part of the refugee camp had an emergency.
Daud says even though they did not have the capacity to distribute wash points, food rations, soap, and sanitisers due to resource constraints, their advocacy efforts paid off as the community was at ease and more confident now that they had the relevant information and in a language they understood. The standby first responders equally turned out be more helpful than Daud thought. They swiftly arrived at different doorsteps whenever called upon, help the old to wash their hands, and even helped the community keep their surfaces clean to minimize infections.
“I consider myself privileged to have accessed the knowledge ELF gave me, know that I have a duty to pass down the same to my community in every way possible” Daud says of his efforts to support his community. He adds that, “I believe that my voice also represents many voices who are unable to attend ELF-Africa programs or any such forums and to access kind of skills I have.”Daud Yare
Asked whether he finds the fellowship training useful in his day-to-day life, Daud said, “I am applying on daily basis, from providing mentorship to coaching sessions to individuals and groups. I also apply the skills I learned from ELF- Africa in the projects I am working on. I am currently able to lead teams, advocate for the youth and refugee communities particularly those who are vulnerable, and I have grown into a leader who leads by example.”
He says he is so fortunate to have benefited from ELF- Africa as such programs are hard to come by especially for young people from communities like his. On what the future holds for him and his community, Daud has no doubt in his mind. He says he has a clear vision for his community and roadmap on how to get there.
“It is very important for me to continue advocating for the marginalized community for inclusion, economic and academic empowerment, security and for mental health.”
Daud finishes with a vote of thanks to ELF-Africa for giving him and other young people the chance to become what they are innately capable of being.
“I would not be having the courage and the know-how to do it better without attending ELF- Africa fellowship program.”
Daud Yare is an ELF-Africa Alumnus from the ELF Fellowship cohort seven. He is the founder of Kakuma based organization, Kakuma READ
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