Clayton's Research/Thesis in Nairobi
Organized by: Clayton Boeyink
Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Poul Hartling, gave the following quote, which has been a precept that I have tried to live by, “A lasting solution, the possibility to begin a new life, is the only dignified solution for the refugee himself.” For the last year I have devoted myself to this challenge as Employment Specialist for Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement Program by finding employment for refugee families and individuals, allowing them to be self-sufficient. This has been the best job I’ve ever had. The opportunity to get to know these peoples’ heart-wrenching stories, rejoice with them in their employment successes, and encourage them during tough breaks has had an incredible impact on me.
Alas, I’m not great at sitting still. Since graduating with an African Studies degree from Central College, and completing a 3 month internship working with abducted women in Northern Uganda in the summer of 2012, I can’t get the people, culture, politics, and beauty of Africa out of my mind. It’s a passion that hasn’t waned, and I believe it never will. Knowing this, I applied to and was accepted to the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) to get my Masters in Africa and International Development, starting in September.
Getting to know and serve refugees has changed the way I view everything. As Westerners, we fall short of grasping the refugee experience, if we ever even think about it at all. From the horror of war and government oppression, the isolation and indignity of refugee camps, to the poverty and confusion of resettlement in the US or elsewhere; life for many refugees becomes 3 separate versions of Hell to navigate. I am moved not only to compassion, but to action after being personally touched by so many refugees’ lives. One refugee I’ve gotten to know well is an Ethiopian man, Sinishaw, who spent many years as a refugee in Nairobi, Kenya. Sinishaw started out as my client, but became my coworker and friend after I assisted him in receiving a job with Catholic Charities. While in Nairobi, he worked for an organization called Refugee Consortium of Kenya, which provides legal advocacy, policy research, and peace-building for refugees living in Kenya, which houses two of the largest refugee camps in the world. Sinishaw has put me in contact with this organization, and in the Summer of 2015 I will be interning with them as a part of my Masters research thesis. What most excites me about this organization is that it has been created by Africans for Africans. I wholeheartedly believe in this model, recognizing that as a white, middle-class American, I am incapable of understanding all the complexity that goes into creating lasting, sustainable solutions for them. I can, however, serve them and be shaped by them, which I greatly look forward to.
I need help getting there though. With the goal of paying for school in Scotland and the trip to Africa, I have worked two jobs for the past 9 months, putting in 60-70 hours a week. Even with this work, student loans, and selling my car, I still won’t quite have enough money to make it all happen. With airfare, housing, food, and program costs, I estimate I will need $3000-$4000 to provide for the time I spend in Kenya. I humbly ask for your financial support in this endeavor. You can pay online at www.crowdrise.com/nairobiclayton or send checks to me directly. Please know how much I will appreciate your support, and please know I will do all I can to empower refugees to achieve dignity and sustenance. Thank you and please contact me if you have any questions or would like any more information.
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