Gihembe refugee camp, in Byumba province in northern Rwanda, has been home to 18,000 refugees, mainly Congolese, since 1996. Refugees who have been living in the camp for such an extensive period of time struggle with limitations on their personal freedom and sense of dignity.
Unable to return home due to a lack of security in eastern DRC or obtain Rwandan citizenship, the refugees continue to feel like foreigners, despite having been born or lived most of their lives here.
Funded by the Spanish NGO Entreculturas and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), JRS seeks to accompany, protect and prepare refugees in anticipation of their future economic and social integration by promoting the development of educational, occupational and social infrastructure in the camp. However, unfortunately, JRS was obliged to reduce camp activities in 2011 in response to politically motivated violence and threats to staff.
Education: Nearly 3,600 primary and 1,130 secondary students, of whom more than half were girls, benefitted from JRS education programmes; 85 percent of primary students passed the national examinations. JRS teams also provided didactic materials, and training to teachers in the areas which included health and hygiene, classroom management and environmental protection.
Secondary students were given the opportunity to join an English and French language club, where they could practice their oral linguistic skills and write short articles for the school publication, Clear Sky, as well as access to the library. In addition, JRS supports around 50 students by paying their school fees.
Accompaniment: JRS carried out regular home visits to approximately 400 individuals and families in vulnerable circumstances – including older persons, orphaned children caring for younger siblings, persons with disabilities and single mothers – providing food, material and spiritual assistance.
Pastoral assistance: A team of 15 staff members organise pastoral activities, including the celebration of mass and the management of bible school.
Great Lakes Africa
+257 78991302; +243 (0)821778696; +250 782000940
JRS Great Lakes Africa is one of 10 geographic regions of the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organization sponsored by the Society of Jesus. The regional office coordinates the delivery of education, housing, psychosocial and recreational services, as well emergency assistance and support to become self-sufficient, to vulnerable refugee and other displaced populations in Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2009, nearly 60,000 forcibly displaced persons were assisted by JRS in the region.
Rwanda: refugee students on a space mission
Kibuye, 15 December 2011 – For just one day, 18 students at the JRS school in western Rwanda were given an opportunity to forget they were living in a refugee camp and were transformed into astronauts on an exciting simulated mission through the Solar System, using the technologies that their western counterparts often take for granted.
Papua New Guinea
Democratic Republic of Congo
Katanga Province, DRC
United States of America
Central African Republic