Empowering Refugee Youth with Life Skills

Clotilda, head of the Counseling department, takes participants through a session

Early morning showers bring the usual confusion on the busy Kayole Spine road, with matatus (vans commonly used for public transport in Nairobi) and buses aggressively angling for space in the long line of vehicles headed towards Nairobi’s Central Business District. Heavy rain turns small dusty pathways into thick mud between the densely packed apartments typical to Kayole, a neighborhood to the east of Nairobi’s center. In the Kayole Catholic Church compound, we hear excited voices emanating from a hall as a group of 23 youth engage in an ice breaker activity. It’s the final day of a three-day life skills training organized by RefugePoint’s counseling department. The attendees are refugee youth who live in the area.

During the life skills training, Clotilda, RefugePoint’s Senior counselor, and James, a RefugePoint counselor, led the youth through activities geared towards empowering them with the skills they will need for a better, brighter future. One session that James led was about the difference between assertiveness, aggressiveness, and passiveness. These types of lessons prepare the participants to prepare for the changes that come with transitioning to adulthood.

“These life skills training gives young people the chance to get to know youth from outside their communities, learn from each other, share their stories, and get outside of their home area to learn something new. They learn how to set goals for themselves and translate them into action,” Clotilda said.

Twenty-two-year-old Didier, a college student, told us about some of the lessons he learned from the training: “I’ll try to be understanding to others. I’ve learned not to go around being angry at everyone because I don’t understand what they are going through. I have learned to exercise self-control, and I think that will make a difference in my life and how I interact with others.”

Nineteen-year-old Kiyobe, a college student, also shared some of her takeaways from the training. “There are pressures we face as refugee youth in interacting with other youth and saying no can be hard. I’ve learned that I can say no, and now I can stand up for myself,” she told us confidently.

The group broke into laughter during a goal-setting session at the end of the day. One of the participants confessed to having the goal of finding a girlfriend, and the group jumped in to see if they could offer advice. It was a light pause among many difficult moments that the group went through during the training, which challenged them to adopt critical thinking, promote introspection on their goals, have self-awareness and assertiveness in dealing with others.