Kenya: bicycles facilitate counselling in Kakuma camp
09 February 2015

Peer counsellors, many female, walk long distances through what is essentially a large town to reach refugee families needing psychosocial care. Bicycles allow counselors to travel more quickly and safely around Kakuma and to reach many more families. (Christian Fuchs / Jesuit Refugee Service)
The peer-counselling project simultaneously serves as leadership development for counsellors as they strive to improve their own community.
Rome, 9 February 2015 – Kakuma camp hosts more than 170,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia and South Sudan. After fleeing violence and famine at home, refugees arrive to Kakuma in need of food, shelter and security, among others. Often suffering from loss and trauma, specialised psychosocial support is in big demand, particularly due to recent influxes of Somalis and South Sudanese refugees. Yet the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is currently the only organisation in the camp providing psychosocial support.

Established in Kakuma in 1994, the JRS psychosocial projects train refugees, currently 540, as peer counsellors for more than 2,000 fellow refugees. In addition to the direct service provided to those being counselled, the peer-counselling project simultaneously serves as leadership development for counsellors as they strive to improve their own community. This is in line with the JRS mission of accompaniment – working with instead of for refugees – empowering them to lead their own communities, transforming their own realities.

One of the biggest issues peer counsellors face, particularly women counsellors, is the lack of safety when traveling to and from the counselling site in the sprawling refugee camp. They must walk long distances through the camp, essentially the size of a large town, to reach refugee families in need of psychosocial care. Bicycles allow counsellors to travel more quickly and safely around Kakuma and to reach many more families.

"Since I received the new bicycle, counselling sessions are more effective in terms of time, and [so many] sessions are no longer missed or delayed. I was so thrilled to receive the bicycle because it has assisted me a lot to make my work here easier," said JRS counsellor Kavi Moran.

A grant from the Loyola Foundation enabled JRS to purchase 69 bicycles for the peer counsellors last year. Ever since it has become so much easier for JRS staff to visit refugees at home. Additionally, as travel time has been reduced, staff members are able to handle more clients.

"Bicycles also enable our staff (facilitators) who conduct the community group counselling, family counselling … and awareness sessions to transport water for the clients," said Haron Bilal, JRS Counselling Supervisor in Kakuma.

"It has really helped because it is easy ... to reach the different communities in different [parts of the camp in a way] we could not reach them [in the past] because of the distance. They have helped us to supervise different areas around the camp which need our help which we could not reach before," said Monicah Atiek of JRS.

In addition to individual and group counselling, JRS Kenya runs a specialised facility in Kakuma for the protection of women and children suffering from sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and implements a mental health programme that provides education and life skills for refugees with learning disabilities.




Press Contact Information
James Stapleton
international.communications@jrs.net
+39 06 69 868 468