Reaching Out to Refugee Youth in DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has received thousands of refugees from Burundi over the past two years. War Child works to support the needs of young people in DRC wherever we can - including within refugee camps. Find out how our ‘Youth Space’ in one camp is improving the skills and resilience of young people…

War Child works across DRC to address the needs of children from both refugee populations and host communities. Our projects in the Lusenda refugee camp - funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO) - focus on youth who have escaped the violence in neighbouring Burundi.

Many organisations are active inside the Lusenda camp to help the refugee population - but the needs of young people are often neglected. War Child has worked to address this by setting up a ‘Youth Space’ inside the camp.

Lusenda refugee campVarious activities are provided to enable children and young people to improve their psychosocial well-being. The schedule includes creative and recreational activities, events to foster dialogue and cooperation, as well as War Child’s life-skills course the ‘DEALS’.

Sessions are run by young adults who work as ‘framers’ and are role models to their peers. One of these framers is Rose (28). She tells us about life in the Youth Space.

Life inside the Youth Space

Rose believes the Youth Space serves a valuable purpose. “Before, the young people spent their time wandering around and doing nothing,” she explains. “Thanks to this space, they now have an opportunity to exchange ideas, create new things and improve their mentality - in short, to learn to know one another and to live better in society.”

"I have a child between 15 and 16 who lost his mother here in the camp. Before, he spent his time wandering and flying in shops and neighbours. But now he comes here and spends his day with his friends to discuss and create things. Now his neighbours testify that he has abandoned his old practices and is already beginning to socialise with others.”

Some 140 young people attend events in the Youth Space. The number includes between 30 and 40 girls. Rose explains why so few females take part: "According to Burundian culture, a girl, when she reaches the age of adolescence, is obliged to stay at home to take care of the household chores. Therefore, girls come only for specific activities such as theatre and traditional dance."

Lusenda refugee campRose’s wish for the young people in her sessions to see them develop skills to meet the challenges of life. “I want this centre to remain operational, with more materials and follow-up visits,” she says.

“For any young person who frequents the centre, in three to five years I see them able to live in any place and with any type of person. They will deal with their situations. They will be responsible and able to create opportunities that will allow them to become someone important.”

Find out more about our projects in Lusenda refugee camp in DRC.