This Former Refugee is Standing Up for the 25 Million Left Behind

June 20th marks World Refugee Day – a day where citizens around the world are choosing to stand with refugees through advocacy efforts, social media participation, fundraising events, and more.

In 2017 alone, every 2 seconds someone was forced to flee their home due to war, violence, or persecution. That equals 68.5 million people. To put that number in terms that might be easier to grasp, that means 44,000 people per day – ordinary people like you and me – were forced to leave everything behind in order to escape violence.

What might be even harder to swallow is the fact that half of the world’s refugees are children.

In Illinois, the United Nations Association of the United States of America Chicago Chapter (UNA Chicago) is taking a stand for those who have lost everything. This World Refugee Day, UNA Chicago is hosting a fundraising event featuring Peter Magai Bul, a former refugee from the Kakuma Refugee Camp.

Kakuma Refugee Camp is one of the oldest refugee camps in Kenya. Kenya’s Kakuma camp serves an estimated 190,000 refugees from neighboring countries – far surpassing its capacity of 100,000 refugees. Within Kakuma, there are 19 primary schools funded by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to serve young refugees, which make up 55 percent of the camp’s population.

“I lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp from 1992 to 2001. Living in Kakuma for about 10 years was very painful and troubling in so many ways,” explains Peter Magai Bul, “Insecurity was among the problems we had to face. We couldn’t travel far outside the camp for a fear of being killed by the local Kenyans, who considered us their enemies.”

Living in fear is just one of the daily challenges for refugees like Peter. Many refugees lack basic necessities such as shelter, access to food and water, the ability to seek medical assistance, and opportunities for education.

“We were encouraged to go to school, but we lacked teachers and school supplies. Diseases such cholera, malaria, and anemia, among others, would take lives every day and there were few clinics that lacked doctors,” reflects Peter.

Even through these daily perils that refugees experience during this international crisis, there is hope. In 2016, UNA-USA, in partnership with USA for UNHCR, launched Adopt-A-Future campaign, an initiative dedicated to helping refugee children build a brighter future by providing them with quality education.

“As Special Initiatives Chair at UNA-Chicago, my role is to highlight the importance, impact and benefits of educating children who are refugees, not only for the children but also for communities and societies,” says Sana’a Hussien. “Most importantly, we explain the resources necessary to deliver education to children living in refugee camps.  Education is a basic human right. The Adopt-A-Future campaign is a program in which any American may participate in our fundraising programs to help deliver this right to refugee children.”

It is our humanitarian duty to help refugees like Peter, and while not everyone can go support displaced people on-the-ground, anyone can help elevate a person living in a refugee camp by empowering them through education. “I am so proud that UNA Chicago is raising money for the Shabele Primary School in Kakuma Refugee Camp,” Farah Eck, President of the UNA Chicago Chapter, adds, “We are a part of the process of helping young people to alter their trajectories to include one of possibilities and opportunities.”

And as for Peter, he plans to continue spreading the word to anyone willing to help fight the refugee crisis: “I promised myself that I would always be their voice and do whatever it takes to advocate for their dignity, rights, and freedom, among other basic needs such as shelter, food, education, and health.”

Funds raised will be matched through the Educate a Child Fund of Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser of Qatar and other philanthropic partners, doubling the impact of the initiative. To learn more about the Adopt-A-Future Campaign, click here.

To find more information on UNA Chicago’s event and hear Peter Magai Bul’s story, click here.