Up skilling refugee women

A former Bacchus Marsh resident who has temporarily re-located to a refugee camp in Uganda says it is important for people to open their eyes to how majority of the world is living.

Photo credit: TASAAGA

Hannah Clarke, 27, developed a strong passion for social justice and human rights whilst she was at high school, where she attended Melton Catholic Regional College, following Bacchus Marsh Primary.

Her love of travelling and experiencing new cultures saw her take part in her first volunteer trip in 2009, where she visited Uganda for a period of 12-months as a HIV educator.

Hannah said volunteering was a way to fully experience the culture of another country.

“I wanted the experience of living like a local. My first trip in 2009 I only had a drop down toilet, had no running water and cooked with coals every single day,” she said.

“It’s amazing how you learn to adjust to your conditions. While it may not sound appealing to some, it was one of the best experiences of my life”.

Hannah said that after falling in love with the country, the landscape and the people, she always dreamt of returning to Uganda.

Six years later, her dream has come true.

In March of this year, she returned to co-coordinate a 3-month project designed to empower refugee women.

Positioned within Nakivale Refugee Camp, Uganda, Hannah provides opportunities for women to learn new skills in order to generate an income, and therefore sustain a healthy livelihood.

The project provides women with training in order to create different crafts in the form of beaded purses, bags and leather sandals, which are then sold at regional markets and tourist centres in Western Uganda.

Once established, the program will look at expanding the skills training to include jewellery and clothing.

Hannah said the program was incredibly important because most of the families within the camp were lead by single mothers.

“Because of the very few jobs available to refugee women they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation in many forms,” she said.

“Worldwide refugees will be in a camp for an average of 17 years, not just in Uganda but worldwide. This means that rather than just providing them with unsustainable, endless aid money it is much more effective to provide people with vocational skills and training they can turn into a healthy livelihood”.

Hannah volunteers with a Ugandan not-for-profit organisation, TASAAGA (Tokamalirawo AIDS Support and Action Group), and said that by working with the right organisation in the right project she can make a global impact.

“Seeing extreme poverty first hand can give you a human understanding and connection to greater global issues that you wouldn’t have exposure to otherwise,” she said.

“In short, I see volunteering as an easy way to build positive relationships between individuals, communities and nations across a variety of cultures”.

For more information visit www.indiegogo.com and search “Refugee Empowerment: Skill Dev & Income Generation”.

First appeared in The Moorabool News, May 5 2015

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