23 November 2015
|Isolated from the rest of the camp, the boys need to be protected but they also need to be heard.|
Kakuma, 23 November 2015 – This year, tens of thousands of people have crossed overseas to flee persecution. With them, they bring few possessions, many stories and important messages for the rest of the world. Millions more, however, seek refuge closer to home – in urban centres or refugee camps – but they too have messages for those overseas.
The Jesuit Refugee Service mobilised the messages of young refugee boys in Kakuma refugee camp through a project entitled, Message in a Bottle. The project allowed 14 boys hosted in the JRS Amani Centre – a safe house for boys with protection concerns – to send their own message in a bottle to Pope Francis in anticipation for his upcoming visit to Kenya.
Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya hosts thousands of unaccompanied children who arrive to the camp after losing their homes, parents and loved ones. While some are taken in by families, others remain alone and fight to survive on a day-to-day basis. Despite the best efforts of humanitarian agencies and the Kenyan government, many continue to face persecution and violence in Kakuma.
In order to prevent such occurrences and protect those who have already experienced violence, JRS hosts some of these boys in a home where they can sleep, study and live in peace until a long-term durable solution option is found for them.
Isolated from the rest of the camp, the boys need to be protected but they also need to be heard – this project allowed them to express their fears, hopes, joys and sorrows. They decorated bottles with paint, African fabrics and drawings and then inserted their customised messages to Pope Francis, which call for peace in their home countries; spread messages of gratitude of the Pope's upcoming visit to Kenya; show drawings of the homes and lives they have left; and even share their fandom for footballers like Messi.
Pope Francis received one of these bottles as a message of solidarity from all refugee children around the world at a private audience on 14 November with 15 refugees and friend and supporters of JRS, in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the organisation.
Angela Wells, JRS Eastern Africa Communications Officer
+39 06 69 868 609