Posted by Jane Best

In the last year, RIJ has funded a project for urban refugees living in Nairobi through Caritas Nairobi (CN). It is the first time to meet with members of the CN team led by Michael Kiburi.

Michael organized a packed schedule and we had a really interesting day.

The project provides start-up training and support for people to set up business thus allowing beneficiaries to become independent.

Refugees in Nairobi register with UNHCR and all the people we met carry certificates to show their refugee status. This allows better integration and gives a degree of freedom.

Our first stop was Dagoretti to meet Bizimana Francois and his cousin Otto, from Rwanda. They are making a Rwandan snack called Mandazi to sell locally – and they can’t make enough it seems. They even

Francois and Otto cooking Mandazi

employ 2 Kenyans to assist with the distribution. This is an excellent model as they are also contributing to the local economy.

We were impressed by Francois who is also a musician – see his song for refugees:

In 2013 he won an award (and $1,000) in New York for the song but he couldn’t travel to receive the award as he has no travel documents.

Francois is a true role model for others showing the potential of young refugees to overcome obstacles and become positive agents of social change in their communities.

We also met Habimana who sells second-hand shoes that he buys in bulk from Nkombo market (the largest in East Africa) and Anatalia who makes bags, mostly to order. Both can earn enough to cover their rent, food and school costs.

In the afternoon we visited Eastleigh where the population is largely

Rehina Umar

Ethiopian and Somalian. The challenges are different here due to Islamic restrictions on women doing business. However, this has not deterred people like Rehina Umar who sells tea, coffee and snacks or Musasinah Hamadi who sells toiletries. Both women were working with others before the project training but now have their independence and are building up a good trade.

We met several Somali women who have just completed the skills training and have yet to complete their business plan in order to get start-up support. This is a challenge to them because many of them did not have access to education in their home countries.

There are many role models in this pilot project that can help inspire others to do the same.