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Beneficiaries of carpentry and hair dressing training courses learn different aspects of financial planning. (Christina Zetlmeisl/Jesuit Refugee Service)

Kampala, 23 October 2017 – In Uganda’s capital around 75,000 displaced persons live as urban refugees – a life that is fraught with uncertainty and doubt. For the most part, asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Kampala are in a destitute condition: many are challenged by language barriers, and lacking means of earning a livelihood, sellable skills, and start-up capital for entrepreneurial opportunities.

For JRS, a key aspect of accompanying refugees and other displaced persons is helping them develop sustainable livelihood activities. These livelihood activities manifest themselves in a variety of areas including marketable vocational skills, entrepreneurship training, access to affordable capital and microfinance, advocating for a favourable political climate, diversifying incomes, and business development services such as market development and mentorship. Since 2014, JRS East Africa, has collaborated with the Uganda Institute of Banking and Financial Services (UIB) in offering business management training to all recipients of JRS skills training programs in Kampala. Life skills training programs in the area include fashion and design, hairdressing, arts and crafts, catering, and carpentry.

“The services I benefited from JRS helped me a lot. The trainings helped me to follow-up my dreams to be independent and self-reliant. Before these trainings, I had doubts and hesitations to start and maintain the business of my choice due to the lack of appropriate tools and knowledge but now I have built self-esteem to proceed in my life and my business,” said Ms Noella Kabale, a 25-year-old refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who has lived in Kampala since 2012. During the past five years, she has benefitted from English language classes, fashion and design, and entrepreneurship training – all provided by JRS.

Together with her four friends, Noella used her social networking skills acquired through the JRS business management program to form a youth-led, community-based organisation that equips refugee and vulnerable host community youth with vocational skills that enable them to improve their livelihoods. They also started refugeenow_kampala, another youth-led initiative that markets refugee products, and boosts their potential using the internet.

Noella is an example of a refugee youth whose commitment and participation in JRS East Africa programming has impacted not only her life but the lives of those around her. She no longer relies on other people to prepare loan applications or tell her the meaning of a financial statement. She commands her own life and opportunities with an agency this is all too often inaccessible to urban refugees.

– Christina Zetlmeisl, Programmes Officer, JRS Kampala