The Refugee Leaders Creating A Brighter Future For Their Communities

Justin Abumbah, Education Officer, discusses the role of leaders in the refugee community, and how they are working to propel their communities into a brighter future in this trying time.

“I never lose, I win or learn” – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose, I win or learn”. This is one of my friend Jean-Marie’s favourite quotes. A few years ago, I joined Xavier Project in the Education Department. Back then, Xavier Project’s Enterprise Department was called “Tamuka”, and it operated a number of community hubs in Nairobi that aimed to teach the youth life skills and computer skills. It was during one of my visits to these hubs that met Jean-Marie, as he was the community hub trainer at that center imparting the young students’ minds with IT knowledge. You see, Jean-Marie was not your typical high school graduate; he was a beneficiary of the Xavier Project Secondary school scholarship, and after scoring good grades in his final year examinations, he had chosen to give back to his community by volunteering with us because he had a passion for improving the lives of the youth. Whenever he was not in class teaching, he was with his group called the “Youth Voices of Nairobi”, advocating for more opportunities for their fellow youth from institutions and international organizations. To top it off, he is also a freelance photographer and IT specialist and he had even managed to set up his own company called the SED designers offering digital solutions to their clients. Jean and I went on to become good friends even after he received a scholarship to join University and left Xavier Project.

Jean-Marie in action, training students at our learning Hub in Kivuli

Refugees and Kenyans can not only coexist peacefully with each other, but refugees can provide assistance to Kenyans.

Everyone has the potential of becoming a leader, and this has become especially evident during this pandemic period as I have seen different communities come together to help uplift each other. Jean-Marie and his team from Youth Voices of Nairobi are a great example of this. They were able to fundraise for basic needs supplies such as soap, cooking oil, flour and sugar, which they shared with not only the refugee communities around their home area, but also their Kenyan counterparts, thus proving that refugees and Kenyans can not only coexist peacefully with each other, but refugees can provide assistance to Kenyans.

“Professor Wangari Maathai encouraged everyone to be like the little humming bird who played its part to stop the forest fire, despite its tiny size.”

I was left asking myself the true meaning of leadership, and what it takes to be a leader in today’s society. Since getting to know Jean-Marie I have come to view leadership as an ability to inspire those around you to join your cause not because of your personality, or ability to provide resources for them, but rather due to a willingness to take action, regardless of your circumstances. This took me way back to a speech that was shared by the late Nobel peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai who encouraged everyone to be like the little humming bird who played its part to stop the forest fire despite its tiny size.
Leadership is not about being the most commanding, or the loudest in a room. You become a leader by becoming the change you want to see in the society, through your actions.
Donate to our COVID-19 appeal now, to help support refugee communities in East Africa with basic provisions

Related updates and blogs