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The fifth annual Ockenden International Prize for excellence in self-reliance refugee projects has been won by St Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS) in Cairo, Egypt, for a programme designed to halt the exodus to Europe of young unaccompanied adults.
StARS’ ‘Youth Bridging Program’, is slowing the migration rate of young unaccompanied refugees in Cairo by providing them with practical reasons to stay where they are.
Before accepting this year’s prize, Executive Director of StARS, Christopher Eades, told a capacity audience that: “Western governments need to understand the reasons why these desperate young people want to get out.
“Most are from Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Syria, Sudan, and South Sudan, and they are very badly treated, enduring daily racist abuse and weekly assaults; there is no support and no infrastructure to support these vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children.”
StARS, whose in-house-trained staff is 95 percent refugees, and which pays all staff at local rates, is creating “opportunities for education, safe employment, and independent living enabling youth to survive and thrive in Cairo,” Mr Eades added.
Guest speaker, Professor Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford, presented the Prize of $US100,000 at the annual ceremony in the Simpkins Lee Theatre, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University on Tuesday evening.
His speech was a powerful argument in support of the economic benefits of refugee self-reliance. As an example, he dissected glaring differences in economic outcomes between Kenya and Uganda where comparative research “has proven that open access to markets for refugees in Uganda benefits the whole country.”
In Kenya, a policy that tightly restricts refugee market activity by isolating them in camps actually costs the country more regardless of any benefits to local communities providing support services.
The other finalists, who each receive $25,000, and their projects were the ‘Consolidation of Legal Aid Services to Forced Migrants’ from the School of Law, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda and ‘IDPs Support Project in Rasuwa’, from
Parivartan Patra, Nepal (nominated by Cordaid, The Netherlands.
Makerere University’s ‘Consolidation of Legal Aid Services to Forced Migrants’ in Kampala, Uganda provides legal representation, education, mental health and psychosocial wellbeing, sexual and gender-based violence protection, conflict and transitional justice programmes as well as media and social change programmes.
Parivartan Patra’s ‘IDP Support Project’ Nepal is a recovery and reconstruction project in the mountain district of Rasuwa following the devastating 2015 earthquake. The project is implementing water sanitation, livelihood, disaster risk reduction and shelter programmes.
The three finalist projects were winnowed from more than 40 entries representing 25 countries, and examined by five expert judges in the final round of judging – a 10-minute oral presentation and 10-minute Q & A – only hours before the Ceremony at Lady Margaret Hall, where the charity’s founder, the late Joyce Pearce OBE began her career of service to refugees and displaced people worldwide.
The judging panel, led by broadcaster Michael Buerk, sought evidence of increased self-reliance in the communities supported, the central ethos of the Prize, which recognises and rewards work that has improved the lives of refugees and displaced people.
Last year’s Prize, presented by John Simpson CBE, was won by Uganda’s YARID (Young African Refugees for Integral Development’ a self-started initiative providing training and education to refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo living in the capital, Kampala.
The 2015 prize went to ‘Everyone Supports Returnees’, a project for displaced people forcibly returned to Burundi from Tanzania, which was presented by the Right Honourable Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.
The 2014 Prize, presented by the Princess Royal, went to the Norwegian Refugee Council for a land rights project in Zimbabwe, which benefited 5,000 people, while the inaugural Prize, awarded in 2013, went to India’s Centre for Development (CfD) partnered by UK charity Childreach International for its Piplaj Advocacy Project to empower a deeply impoverished community in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
The 2017 judges were broadcaster Michael Buerk, (Chair), Dr Georgia Cole, Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow, Refugee Studies Centre/LMH, Oxford; Sue Bent, Chief Executive, Coventry Law Centre; Sophie Henderson, Project Director, Migration Museum; Dr Dawn Chatty, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford, and special adviser James Beale, Director of Institutional Funding, Plan International, Trustee and former CEO of Ockenden International.
More information about the Prize, previous winners and their projects as well as Ockenden International and its history can be found at www.ockendenprizes.org and www.facebook.com/OckendenPrizes
Note for editors
Ockenden International’s roots lie in the work of three British schoolteachers, led by Joyce Pearce. Starting out in 1951, their humble aim was to receive in Britain young East Europeans from homeless persons’ camps in post-war Germany and to provide for their maintenance, education and welfare. As Ockenden Venture, this work later extended to projects in India, North Africa and Southeast Asia. The Venture’s expertise and skills in helping people help themselves was so well recognised by 1979 that the British government asked Ockenden to be one of the three charities tasked with helping Vietnamese ‘boat people’ resettle in the United Kingdom.
After the death in 1985 of Joyce Pearce, the driving visionary of the organisation, the charity took stock of its work and by 1999, as Ockenden International, had concentrated nearly all its work overseas. In 2007 the trustees decided that continuing to be an operational charity was no longer viable and that it could work more effectively by becoming a prize-giver and promoting awareness of the challenges facing refugees and displaced people.
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