INTERVIEW WITH OUR VOLUNTEER, MR. JAMES IDRISS.
- What motivated you to join WFI as a volunteer in refugee education programming?
I took the time to read the organization’s descriptions, policies, and different sectors, including the Teaching and Learning sector, Livelihood sector, Health sector, and Art Education sector. After gaining full knowledge about the organization’s program details, I felt motivated and interested in joining to contribute my knowledge and skills, as I am passionate about teaching the community.
The organization had a successful reputation for its work, which further motivated me to apply for a volunteer position. My academic qualifications, skills, and experience in the related field were additional factors that motivated me to be a part of the organization.
After being given the opportunity to serve as a facilitator, I expressed my desire to become a full member of the organization. Upon graduating from the third cohort, I was promoted to become the Head of Teaching and Learning sector.
- What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while working in a refugee education programming setup and how have you overcome them?
Volunteering for a long period without salary payment is one of the core challenges that I have faced while working in a refugee education programming setup. As a human being, I have wants and needs in life, such as toiletries, clothing, and transportation costs. These are some of the financial challenges that I face.
Another challenge that I face is language barriers. It is difficult to start the foundation of adult education programs and complete the intended programs since there is a need for several translations required for people to understand.
Inadequate learning resources are also a challenge, which is due to the lack of good supporters or funders who can offer support for the effective implementation of the program. Despite these challenges, I have overcome them in the following ways:
- Financial challenges: I have become a self-driven person who is resilient to financial issues. I create time for side hustles to support myself and the organization.
- Language barriers: I have appointed some learners who are translators to assist those who do not understand English well. This has helped in ensuring that everyone understands the program.
- Inadequate learning resources: Though there are limited resources, as a team, we contribute something to sustain the learning process. We use the resources available to ensure continuous teaching progress. For instance, in situations where weather conditions make it difficult for learners to attend classes, we use social media platforms to inform them of the learning objectives and materials. We also encourage learners to share resources and assist each other to overcome the challenge of inadequate learning resources.
Despite the challenges faced while working in a refugee education programming setup, I remain committed to making a positive impact on the lives of the refugees. I believe that with resilience, self-motivation, and team effort, we can overcome these challenges and achieve our goals.
3. Can you share a success story or a specific instance where you witnessed a positive impact of WFI’s education program on a refugee student?
I am thrilled to be a part of this organization, and I have witnessed the positive impact of WFI’s education program on refugee students. We have successfully graduated three cohorts of 350 learners in both basic and intermediate English courses. It is gratifying to see that people who have trained with us are now being employed in various organizations within Kakuma, such as LWF, PWJ, and JRS, due to their certification and knowledge. We have had the pleasure of seeing five individuals employed by LWF, one by JRS, and one by PWJ. This demonstrates the importance of educating adult refugees, as it creates opportunities for them to be gainfully employed and contribute positively to their communities.
4. In your opinion, what role does education programming play in empowering refugees and helping them rebuild their lives?
Education programming plays a critical role in empowering refugees and helping them rebuild their lives. It provides an opportunity for refugees to gain knowledge and skills, which they can use to earn a living and contribute to their community’s development. In addition, education promotes peace and social cohesion by bringing people from diverse backgrounds together. When refugees engage in education programs, they can interact with one another, build friendships, and learn about different cultures. This not only fosters a sense of community but also helps to break down barriers and reduce tensions.
Education also plays a crucial role in improving the mental health and well-being of refugees. Many refugees have experienced traumatic events, and education can provide them with a sense of purpose, routine, and normalcy. It can also help to reduce feelings of isolation and hopelessness that many refugees experience.
Moreover, education programming can help to address the root causes of displacement by providing refugees with the tools they need to rebuild their lives. With education, refugees can gain the knowledge and skills necessary to rebuild their homes, start businesses, and contribute to their country’s development. This, in turn, can help to reduce the likelihood of further displacement and create a more stable and prosperous future for all.
5. How do you ensure that the educational content you teach is culturally relevant and sensitive to the needs of the refugee community?
In order to ensure that the educational content we teach is culturally relevant and sensitive to the needs of the refugee community, we make sure that we understand the cultural background of our learners. We recognize and appreciate the diversity of our learners and take into account their different cultural beliefs and practices. We also encourage our learners to share their experiences and cultural practices during the course of our classes.
Furthermore, we tailor our teaching methods and materials to align with the cultural values and practices of the learners. We use local examples and case studies that are relatable to the learners and their cultural context. We also incorporate local languages and dialects in our teaching to enhance understanding and comprehension.
We believe that incorporating cultural relevance in our education programming is crucial in promoting the learners’ confidence and sense of belonging. When learners feel that their cultural identity is respected and appreciated, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their studies, and as a result, more likely to achieve their goals.
6. In your opinion, what are the most significant outcomes of WFI’s education programming for the refugee community, and how have you contributed to achieving these outcomes?
In my opinion, the most significant outcomes of WFI’s education programming for the refugee community are improved communication skills and the ability of the learners to pursue employment opportunities. This has had a positive impact on their lives as they are able to interact with people from different nationalities and cultures, and also gain a sense of independence and self-worth. Additionally, some learners have traveled back to their countries with the organization’s certificates, which has helped them to become important members of their communities.
As a volunteer, I have contributed to achieving these outcomes by teaching English and supporting the learners in their educational journey. I have also worked with the organization to develop culturally relevant educational content and to ensure that the needs of the refugee community are being met. Through my efforts, I have seen the learners become more confident and empowered, which has been a rewarding experience.
7. What advice would you give to others who are interested in volunteering in education programming for refugees?
If someone is interested in volunteering in education programming for refugees, my advice would be to join an organization like WFI and work to enhance the transformation that the organization is providing in terms of quality education services to the community. It’s important to understand the community’s needs and culture and to work collaboratively with other volunteers and organizations to provide the best possible educational opportunities. By volunteering with a reputable organization like WFI, individuals can make a positive impact on the lives of refugees and help them build a better future.
8. Can you share a fun or interesting fact about your experience working with refugee communities?
The interesting thing about working with refugee communities is that the learning process is continuous. Teaching adults often require translation for effective understanding, which is a unique challenge that I find both interesting and fulfilling. It’s important to be patient and creative in finding ways to communicate complex ideas to people from diverse backgrounds.
In your experience, how do you see education programming evolving in the next few years in refugee setups, and what challenges or opportunities do you anticipate?
In my experience, I see the education programming at WFI evolving and expanding to other refugee camps in the next few years. However, there are challenges that we may face, such as the lack of funds to support teacher salaries and inadequate learning resources for both learners and teachers. Despite these challenges, there are also opportunities for us to improve and innovate our programs, such as leveraging technology for remote learning and partnering with other organizations to access additional resources and support.
I believe that education is a powerful tool for empowering refugees and helping them rebuild their lives, and I am optimistic that with the right support and resources, we can make a positive impact on the lives of many more refugees in the years to come