Managing relations between refugees and host communities is a difficult undertaking. Often, the aid granted to displaced people breeds resentment in host communities that though at home, are also impoverished and vulnerable to hunger, disease and extremities of weather. The ill-feeling generated can spark violence between already stressed and traumatised populations. To smooth these differences and encourage harmonious co-existence between these two groups is the aim of an HDC/UNHCR intervention in Maban County - "Support youth through apprenticeship placements and vocational skills".
On the 9th of December 2015, the people of Maban and members of a refugee population of 140,000 refugees from Blue Nile in the Republic of Sudan gathered at Bunj Secondary School to witness the graduation of 300 youths - 132 refugees, 168 Mabanese from a skills training programme. These youth had participated in an activity through which they practised cooperating across the host/refugee divide and gained valuable vocational skills in
i) working with computers - both installation of hardware and working with software
iii) electrical work - particularly wiring and lighting installations
These courses, rudimentary as they may be, are foundational steps in the construction of a new South Sudan. They are the first building blocks in the development of a viable, durable future in which the welfare of the people of this region is improved, and in which they are more connected to each other and the world. It is hoped that some of the graduates can leverage their new found skills and credentials into jobs in the humanitarian community here; while others set themselves up in a trade, and supply their services across this region. In this way this intervention intends to reduce young people's dependence on relief aid and set their communities on a path to more diversified economies capable of satisfying more than the most basic needs.
As the guests of honour at the event, the UNHCR desk officer for Bunj and the County Commissioner affirmed, it is also hoped that having worked together these brave young graduates will be ambassadors of peace in the camps, helping to bridge the divide between the refugees and their hosts.