Welcome to Eastleigh, Nairobi.
One of the slums of Nairobi where many Ethiopian and Somali Refugees currently live.
If you might be wondering where I am working this summer, I am doing media consulting for the HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya (based in Nairobi), a subsidiary of The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
Let me first give you a short background of what HRTK does and why their services are highly needed. First off, conflicts in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to seek safe haven in Kenya and Uganda. (HRTK does missions to Uganda 3+ times per year).
HRTK provides protection, psychosocial counseling and resettlement assistance to these vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees who are mostly survivors of torture and/or sexual/gender-based violence.
Preparing for a few months before coming to HRTK, I knew in my mind that they worked directly with these vulnerable refugee groups, but as we all know…Seeing is believing.
I was surprised with my initial shock the first time I had to look into the eyes of a refugee. I went with one of our protection officers to pick up a client from a Cultural Orientation (where they learn how to integrate in their new country—this specific case was the U.S.) and drop her back off in Eastleigh, a slum of Nairobi where a lot of Ethiopian and Somali refugees live. It is my gut instinct to smile when I meet new people. So I smiled, and instantly I thought…no, Amy, don’t smile, this is not a happy moment. This woman—well, girl, about 19 years old—of the Oromo ethnic group from Ethiopia has been through trauma I could never even imagine.
We are then sitting next to each other in the back seat of the car and I pretty much froze. I did not know how to act or what to say. I was also very thirsty, but didn’t want to take out my purchased 1 Liter bottle of clean water right next to her. That would be rubbing that I have money into her face, right? And I can’t talk to her because we don’t speak the same language. But then again, HRTK is helping this young girl start a new life, so this is a happy moment, right?
And that is only the beginning. I haven’t even heard her story yet.
Eastleigh is where she lives.
I will also be writing a blog directly for HIAS, called HIASserve.
I want to share with you one of the many cases HRTK handles for possible resettlement.
The case is not of the 19-year old from above, but from another young woman from Somalia.
Reasons and Route for flight
I first fled my country for Kenya in 2005. I came with my son who is sick (with Hydrocephalus, an excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain). I left Somalia because I had been shot at by armed Hawiye (a Somali Clan) men. I come from a very small clan in Somalia called the Madhiban. The bigger tribes use us like slaves.
Please visit the full story: “A Refugee Wishes they had your problems”
Thank you for listening.
There is a poster hanging in the HIAS Refugee Trust of Kenya Office from the UNHCR that says, “Your Sympathy cannot help a refugee. But it is a beginning.”
More to come from the field.