Reflections from the DREEM Youth Advisory Committee: Our Challenges Need a Solution
My name is Racheal Athiak Makuei, and I am a law graduate and an alumnus of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. I am a refugee youth living at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Turkana County, in Kenya.
I was born and raised in Kakuma and completed both my primary and secondary education in the camp. This journey has not been easy but through the support I received from my family, my community, and my sponsor, I have been able to get this far.
After high school, I used to give free lessons to some of the interested high school students in Kakuma. I used to teach them mathematics, kiswahili, and biology. Currently, I am a member of the Youth Advisory Committee for the Displaced and Refugee Youth Enabling Environment Mechanism (DREEM) project, funded by the Mastercard Foundation. The Youth Advisory Committee is a group of young refugees who meet twice a month to discuss the specific challenges that refugees face and come up with practical solutions. I am happy to be part of this group because I can represent the needs of my community.
Back at the university, I started my small business to help get some pocket money to support myself. My accommodations were covered by my sponsor, and I used to get a small allowance in my first and second year of my studies. However, I needed to pay for other essentials by myself or ask for support from my mother occasionally. The capital was from my weekly savings back in my first and second year. The business is still ongoing although the number of clients is small.
I am currently looking for a permanent job. I keep trying to apply but have had no success so far. The main reason for this is because I do not have a work permit which is awfully expensive to get and, as a refugee, I cannot afford it. Therefore, to keep myself busy, I do crochet work mostly for home décor and I sell the pieces that I create. The only setback is that this consumes a lot of time and the cost of buying the materials is high. At the end of the day, I receive some profit which helps me to cover some of my basic needs.
As a young refugee, one of the challenges that other young refugees and I face is finding meaningful work. One may have skills, experience, and the papers but because of lack of work permits, most young refugees get turned down. We do not get the chance to serve our community with the skills, knowledge, and experiences we have. This makes it impossible for us to give back to other refugees.
My dream for myself is to be able to practice law and help other refugees that may need my assistance. I also wish to have my own law firm one day and to also help my family back in Kakuma.
Racheal Athiak Makuei
Youth Advisory Committee Member
The Displaced and Refugee Youth Enabling Environment Mechanism (DREEM) project is a 5-year project funded by the Mastercard Foundation that is working to facilitate an enabling environment for the inclusion of refugee and displaced youth, especially young women, to fully participate in society. The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) is a group of young refugees whose role is to provide guidance to the DREEM project to enable the objectives of the Foundation and ensure that DREEM activities are designed and delivered to meet the needs of refugees and displaced young people.