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[Journey Update] AReL Scaling Up In Kakuma Refugee Camp (Kenya) - Construction Of Two New Classrooms And An Office

Greetings to our cherished community! We are delighted to bring some exciting news from the heart of Kakuma refugee camp. Kakuma has become a beacon of hope and transformation for many. As Action for Refugee Life (AReL) continues its mission, we've been met with an opportunity that promises to magnify our impact: a green light from Jenga Maisha Company Limited, granting us the privilege to expand our infrastructure.

Video: An up-close look at the construction expansion of two classrooms and an office at the AReL center located in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Turkana County, Kenya (pre-build, mid-build, and completion).


Building Today for Tomorrow's Leaders

With the kind permission of Jenga Maisha Company Limited, we are expanding our horizons, quite literally. As we witness an increasing demand for education and the endless enthusiasm of the Kakuma community, it becomes clear that scaling up our infrastructure is the next pivotal step. In response, we've begun the construction of two additional classrooms, creating spaces that inspire learning and foster community.

This expansion is more than just a response to demand—it symbolizes AReL's promise to remain adaptable and responsive to the needs of our community. As we grow, so does our commitment to ensuring that every refugee in Kakuma has access to quality education within conducive environments.


The Operational Anchor: Proximity Powers Agility in AReL's Mission

In conjunction with developing new classrooms, we are actively renovating a designated space for administrative purposes. This dedicated office will efficiently handle the day-to-day operational needs, ensuring that classroom spaces remain exclusively for instruction and learning. By addressing administrative matters in this separate space, we optimize our valuable classroom spaces, ensuring they stay dedicated venues for knowledge and growth. This careful segregation underlines our commitment to offering an unobstructed learning environment for our students.

Our on-campus presence is a distinguishing strength for AReL. Being close to our students fosters a sense of community and grants us unparalleled agility in addressing real-time challenges. Whether it's swiftly rectifying internet connectivity glitches, ensuring a consistent power supply, or maintaining the security and integrity of our learning center, our proximity allows us to act promptly and efficiently. By embedding on-the-ground operational support within the heart of the camp, we ensure a seamless learning experience for our students, showcasing our unwavering commitment to their growth and well-being.

Reflecting on Our Journey

Every milestone reached is a testament to our adaptability and relentless drive, from the inception of our in-class training programs to the strides we've made with our Digital Marketing Training Courses powered with Hubspot curriculum. With our expanded facilities, we're set to accommodate our growth, ensuring that our impact scales alongside our ambitions.


Be Part of Our Story - Invitation to Growth

While our infrastructure physically grows, the spirit and mission of AReL remain anchored in community and collaboration -  it's the community's belief and support that genuinely builds AReL. Your unwavering support has been instrumental in every step forward. As we expand our footprint, we hope you'll continue to walk alongside us.

Your role in this journey has been invaluable to all our partners, supporters, and believers. Whether you're a company keen on partnership, a dedicated volunteer, or a generous benefactor, each of you plays a role in sculpting the future of Kakuma's refugees. Whether you are a company looking to collaborate, an individual wanting to volunteer, or someone willing to offer financial support, your contribution can make waves of change.

We stand firm in our belief that education is the cornerstone of progress. With our expanding facilities and courses, AReL ensures that the young refugees in Kakuma have the tools to shape their futures.

Thank you for standing with us, believing in our vision, and being an integral part of the AReL family. Together, we are not just constructing buildings but also architecting dreams.

Visit our Partners page to discover ways you can get involved.

AReL Partners With Bnevol To Provide Vital Server Resources To Refugee Students Embarking On Their Digital Skills Training

Driving Impact: When Tech Meets Social Good

As the digital realm continues to shape our world, the opportunity it presents for refugees to redefine their futures is immense. AReL, an innovative refugee-led social impact organization, champions this cause, diligently equipping young refugees with essential digital skills. By constructing classrooms powered with electricity and the internet, AReL creates an environment for continuous learning. Augmenting AReL's efforts, Bnevol has generously contributed critical server resources, further bolstering the foundation for these young minds to thrive.


Dismantling Barriers and Empowering Refugees with Tools for Growth

While the absence of appropriate infrastructure hampers skill development and creates a cascade of missed opportunities, more than merely addressing these barriers is needed. Beyond acquiring knowledge, countless talents remain underutilized, primarily due to systemic hindrances and untapped potential. As a first step, it is certainly essential to identify these failed systems that impede economic progress within communities and throughout Africa. More importantly, it involves actively equipping refugees with the necessary tools and resources. By doing so, we're not just mending a skills chasm but also embarking on a transformative journey that rekindles aspirations, nurtures creativity, and fortifies paths toward self-reliance and broader societal progress.


What Was Donated?

Bnevol has provided AReL's students with a comprehensive set of technical resources: server resources, dedicated cPanel accounts for each student, and dedicated subdomains. Let's delve into each resource and how it empowers students. 

Server Resources

While low-cost shared server environments provided by many hosting companies seem attractive, they come with significant performance restrictions. These limitations are exposed when deployed to more expansive setups like campus or university scenarios. Bnevol's contribution of high-capacity servers ensures that AReL's students have a reliable, scalable, and unhindered digital platform to fuel their aspirations. AReL training courses are delivered onsite within the Kakuma refugee camp, with two new classrooms recently constructed to scale the training courses' delivery. It is nothing short of a burgeoning campus, with power, electricity, and internet coming at a hefty cost. The donation of Adequate server resources that can scale with the growth of the campus is vital to AReL's strategic mission to serve the refugee community.

Dedicated cPanel Accounts

With cPanel, students can master the nuances of server administration. This widely used platform offers the ability to manage databases, handle files and directories, control FTP access, modify DNS settings, and more. Students can engage in real-world tasks by having their own dedicated cPanel accounts while becoming proficient in a tool central to their field. cPanel requires licenses typically provided through hosting companies. The costs associated with these licenses can be prohibitive in a more extensive setup like a university or campus. Bnevol's offering of dedicated cPanel accounts ensures that students have this essential tool at their fingertips without the organization bearing the brunt of the associated costs.

Dedicated Subdomains

The power of a dedicated subdomain for each student is multi-fold:

  • Unique Online Presence: Building an individualized digital identity allows students to carve their niche in the expansive digital landscape.
  • Staging Environments: Students can set up dedicated spaces to apply what they learn and experiment with new skills, ensuring their training is both theoretical and practical.
  • Public-Facing Portfolio:These subdomains give students a platform to showcase their accomplishments and projects, making them more visible to potential employers and bridging the gap between learning and employment.


Empowering Futures And Creating Access: The Convergence of Tech and Hope

Reflecting on this partnership and its broader implications, we must recognize that Africa's tech potential remains untapped. Despite the surge in innovations and the rise of formidable African tech leaders, the continent's brilliance often goes unnoticed or underutilized. By creating platforms and opportunities like these, we're uplifting individuals and echoing a message to the world about Africa's boundless potential.

Join Us here by visiting our partners' page to discover ways to remove barriers and create access for others.


About Bnevol, LLC

Bnevol is a Black-Owned Digital Agency that amplifies impact for mission-focused organizations with web design, marketing, and strategy solutions across the do-good sector.

With over two decades of experience in the private sector, Bnevol's founder, Zehn Baskerville, PMP, has cultivated exceptional expertise in providing premium, professional-level technical and digital solutions to businesses and startups that were once largely inaccessible to the do-good sector.

In 2021, Zehn founded Bnevol with a commitment to channel broad expertise and experience to deliver best-in-class solutions to mission-focused organizations and leaders, unlocking solutions previously monopolized by the for-profit sector and making them available to change makers to magnify their social impact.

Bnevol has also donated web development, management, and hosting services for the AReL website.

Head over to Bnevol website to learn more:

About AReL:

AReL (Actiona for Refugee Life) is a refugee-led social impact organization founded in 2022 in Kakuma refugee camp, striving to build a sustainable and self-reliant future for the refugee community.

AReL provides the necessary tools, resources, and support to refugees at the individual, household, and community levels to capacitate them to achieve economic and social self-sufficiency. This will enable them to meet essential needs sustainably and dignifiedly.

Action for Refugee Life (AReL) offers a range of on-campus digital training courses that focus on skill enhancement, job market readiness, mentorship, postgraduation support, and entrepreneurship assistance. The organization's comprehensive program guides students from enrollment to job placement. This includes diverse digital and technical courses tailored to market demands, thorough orientation, practical training enriched by a global industry-focused professional network, and simulated real-world scenarios. The organization supports graduates transitioning into the workplace, offering assistance through designated ambassadors. Moreover, AReL fosters self-sufficiency by promoting entrepreneurial endeavors within the refugee community.


The Problem - Part One: Infrastructure Limitations in Kakuma Refugee Camp

A Deep Dive Into Kakuma's Infrastructure Hurdles - Bridging The Physical And Digital Divide

The Kakuma refugee camp, nestled far from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi, stands as a testament to the resilience of its inhabitants. Here, thousands of refugees from various nations seek refuge, dreaming of a brighter, more secure future. While these dreams are universal, the challenges the camp's residents face are unique and often exacerbated by its remote location.

Enter Action for Refugee Life (AReL). Founded in the heart of this camp in 2022, AReL is more than just an organization; it's a beacon of hope. Driven by the belief that every refugee deserves a shot at a sustainable and self-reliant future, AReL offers a bridge over the gaping chasm of challenges. From providing the necessary tools and resources to mentorship and post-graduation support, AReL is determined to empower the community at every step.

Yet, amidst all the aspirations, there lies a hurdle that's often overlooked but is foundational to most modern initiatives: infrastructure. The physical distance of Kakuma from Nairobi isn't just a geographic fact; it translates into very tangible infrastructure limitations that hamper various growth initiatives, notably in the digital domain. This series seeks to shed light on these challenges, delve into their implications, and explore potential solutions. 

1. The Geographic Challenge: Distance From Nairobi
2. Connectivity Concerns: Internet Stability And Its Implications
3. Physical Infrastructure: Learning Environments And Shelter Concerns
4. Digital Infrastructure: Inadequate Computing Resources
5. The Road Ahead: Possible Solutions And AReL's Vision


1. The Geographic Challenge: Distance from Nairobi

At first glance, the distance from Nairobi seems like a logistical challenge, a matter of mere miles. However, the implications of this geographic separation run deep, directly influencing the pace and quality of infrastructure development in the Kakuma refugee camp.

The most immediate concern that arises from this remoteness is the essential availability of resources. Getting materials, technology, and skilled personnel to a location far removed from the country's primary urban centers is challenging and costly.


A report by the World Bank highlighted that logistic costs, which include transportation, can account for up to 50-75% of the retail price of goods in some African countries.

This heightened cost underscores the difficulty of setting up vital infrastructure in places like Kakuma.

But the challenge isn't solely about physical distance but also environmental hardships. Regular flooding is a recurring issue in the region. UNHCR reported in 2020 that Kakuma experienced heavy rainfall, affecting more than 10,000 refugees, prompting relocations due to the destruction of their shelters. Properly planned drainage systems and robust buildings could significantly mitigate these effects. Yet, with the African Development Bank estimating a financing gap of $68–$108 billion for Africa's infrastructure needs, the challenge of garnering adequate resources becomes even steeper.


The African Development Bank estimates a financing gap of $68–$108 billion for Africa's infrastructure needs.

Moreover, these environmental challenges aren't mere acts of nature but intertwined with infrastructure. Properly planned drainage systems, robust buildings, and elevated roadways could significantly mitigate the effects of these floods. Yet, the geographic distance compounds the difficulty of implementing such solutions. The isolation means fewer experts on the ground, limited resources, and prolonged response times to crises.

Lastly, the distance from Nairobi has intangible effects too. Being far from the nation's capital and primary business hubs can sometimes translate into being 'out of sight, out of mind.' The dire need for development and resources in distant areas like Kakuma can often be overshadowed by more immediate concerns in urban centers, leading to delays in policy decisions, fund allocations, and project implementations.

In essence, while Kakuma's geographic challenge might seem like a simple hurdle of distance, its cascading effects on infrastructure development, environmental planning, and the overall well-being of the residents are profound and far-reaching.


2. The Case for Connectivity, the New Human Right - Connectivity Concerns, Internet Stability, and its Implications

As the United Nations decrees, the case for connectivity is the new human right. In today's digital era, where almost every facet of life – education, work, or communication – is intrinsically linked to the internet and mobile devices, having a stable connection is not just a luxury but a necessity. While it's commendable that mobile phone access in Kakuma is notably high, the nature of this access presents its challenges.


Of those with mobile phones, 44% owned a smartphone, 15% owned a feature phone, and 39% owned a basic phone, according to Elrha.

However, many are relegated to a mere 2G connectivity, experiencing average speeds of just 1.5 mbs.

The vast prevalence of mobile phones in the camp, particularly smartphones, means that many refugees possess the tools to connect. Yet, the limited internet speeds and outdated 2G connectivity hinder their potential to harness the full capabilities of these devices. It's not merely about accessing the internet; it's about the quality of that access.

Infrastructure constraints further expose limitations when connected laptops aim to facilitate learning. Imagine a classroom with eager students poised to delve into a new lesson. The screen flickers to life and the teacher's voice is about to chime in, but then – a pause, a glitch, and a prolonged silence. If such occurrences become routine and expected, it disrupts the flow of knowledge and the incentive to engage in learning. The need for robust internet connectivity isn't merely about bandwidth; it's about ensuring that multiple classroom student refugees can connect simultaneously without facing lags, ensuring that knowledge delivery, especially on connected devices, is efficient and effective.

The ramifications of inconsistent internet and mobile access reach far beyond academic disruptions. A stable and reliable internet connection is a lifeline to the outside world, offering opportunities for refugees to interact, learn, and even seek employment opportunities beyond the confines of the camp. It's about bridging the gap between Kakuma and the global community, enabling refugees to participate actively in the digital age using their phones.

With its commitment to fostering education and self-reliance within the refugee community, AReL has firsthand felt the weight of these connectivity challenges. Every glitch, every dropped connection, isn't just a technical hiccup; it's a disruption in a student's journey striving for a brighter future. Such issues underscore the importance of mobile-optimized digital lessons and the broader vision of AReL to bridge the digital divide. To truly realize the potential of every refugee, the foundation of stable internet connectivity needs to be laid. And while AReL has innovated ways to improve the delivery of connected lessons, much more must be done to introduce durable solutions at scale.

Internet stability and robust connectivity are paramount in AReL's comprehensive programs, from digital training courses to mentorship and job placement. Without it, the bridge between enrollment and employment – a journey that involves various digital touchpoints, from online courses to virtual meetings with potential employers – gets fragmented.

While Kakuma's connectivity concerns seem technical, they are, in essence, deeply human. They're about aspirations, opportunities, and the basic human desire to connect, learn, and grow through various means. Addressing these concerns is not just about installing better routers or increasing bandwidth; it's about laying down the digital infrastructure that can truly unlock the potential of Kakuma's residents.


3. Physical Infrastructure: Learning Environments, Shelter, and More

Kakuma refugee camp, established years ago and backed by myriad organizations working tirelessly to uplift its residents, grapples with pressing physical infrastructure challenges. These challenges encompass the rudimentary infrastructures that support daily life and facilities crucial for education, health, safety, and recreation.

A stroll through Kakuma unveils the raw state of its infrastructure. Makeshift tents, sporadic power sources, and buildings crafted from local materials are commonplace. While the indomitable spirit of its inhabitants is evident, the infrastructure supporting them often falters under duress.

For education to genuinely thrive, classrooms require more than mere walls. They demand environments fostering conducive learning, with sturdy tables, comfortable seating, efficient lighting, electronic devices for global connectivity, and consistent electricity. These can lead to compromised learning experiences and can also pose daily challenges. For instance, a student desiring to study after sunset might need more lighting. At the same time, another keen on attending a virtual class might face hurdles like no seating or an unstable power supply. Each missing infrastructure component isn't just an item in deficit; it symbolizes a potential obstacle for a refugee yearning for a brighter tomorrow.

The educational facilities typically need more digital and technical infrastructure for modern skills development for young Africans preparing to enter the global workforce. Regrettably, a significant fraction of the population has never attended school, particularly women, hindering the growth of a skilled local workforce.


According to a UN-Habitat survey for Turkana West Sub-county, 69%had never been to school.

In Kakuma-Kalobeyei, 33% of respondents surveyed by UNHCR have not received formal education, with women accounting for 69% of those without formal education. 

While we focus the infrastructure problem around education, it extends beyond. The health facilities in Kakuma play a pivotal role. Most residents depend on NGO-run health establishments. However, they often need more adequately stocked dispensaries and prolonged waits for primary health care. Recreational facilities are sparse but essential for residents' well-being and holistic development. 

While the resolve of Kakuma's denizens remains unshaken, the existing physical infrastructure often needs to be improved. Building a robust foundation is not merely about erecting structures but creating a space where dreams can soar, undeterred by present constraints.

4. Digital Infrastructure: Inadequate Computing Resources

In the 21st century, the computer has evolved from a luxury to an absolute necessity, especially in education and work. It's a window to a universe of information, a tool that simplifies complex tasks, and a platform that brings distant people closer. However, in Kakuma, this essential tool is in short supply, and the implications of this shortfall touch every corner of life within the camp.

To truly understand the gravity of the situation, one must first recognize computers' indispensable role in today's educational landscape. Modern pedagogy leans heavily on digital resources – interactive lessons, research, simulations, and e-books, to name a few. Beyond education, computers pave the way for diverse work opportunities, allowing individuals to break geographical barriers and tap into the global job market.

Yet, acquiring and maintaining computers in Kakuma is laden with obstacles. For many refugees, purchasing a computer remains a distant dream, given the financial constraints. Even when computers enter the camp, the harsh environmental conditions and limited maintenance expertise often mean these machines have shortened lifespans.

However, one of the most poignant challenges arises when well-intentioned donations land in Kakuma. While every laptop donated represents a beacon of hope, the limited numbers they often come in present a heart-wrenching dilemma: Who gets the golden ticket? When laptops arrive in batches of dozens rather than in the hundreds or thousands that are genuinely needed, organizations like AReL find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. These aren't just devices but potential gateways to a better life. Deciding who gets access becomes a logistical challenge and a moral one. It's a situation where gratitude for generosity meets the pain of disparity.

The heart of the matter isn't just about having a device to work or study; it's about equity. Small batches mean that while some refugees get to stride forward, equipped with digital tools, others may watch from the sidelines, their aspirations momentarily paused. Such disparities, even if unintentional, can sow seeds of discontent within the community.

Organizations like AReL are considering thoughtful and adaptive solutions, from setting up communal computer centers to rotating access, ensuring that as many individuals as possible can benefit. But the underlying challenge remains – until every refugee has personal, unhindered access to computing resources, the journey toward comprehensive digital empowerment remains incomplete.

The lack of adequate computing resources is a tangible reminder of the road yet to be traveled. It's a journey that requires collective effort, empathy, and a deep understanding of the transformative power of technology.


The Road Ahead: Possible Solutions and AReL's Vision

The challenges of infrastructure in Kakuma are manifold, but they are manageable. Understanding the pain points and being strategic in our approach can pave the path toward a brighter, more sustainable future for the camp's inhabitants. While the hurdles might seem daunting, organizations like AReL, with the backing of supportive partners and donors, are dedicated to finding and implementing solutions.

Strategic Interventions to Alleviate Infrastructure Limitations:

From the AReL lens, the focus is on multipronged strategies that target both immediate needs and long-term sustainability. This includes:

  • Learning Centers: AReL has constructed three classrooms for refugee students with plans to expand into a burgeoning campus for refugees to partake in our digital skills training course and certification programs. Our vision aims to move beyond campus with co-working spaces for mixing business and learning.
  • Solar Power Installations:Given the geographical location, harnessing solar power can offer a consistent and environmentally friendly electricity source, reducing reliance on sporadic electrical grids. AReL partners with service providers to increase the overall delivery of energy and electricity for our facilities.
  • Technical Infrastructure: AReL partners with Bnevol, LLC, to provide vital server resources to refugee students embarking on digital skills training. Students receive access to the high-performing server environment, dedicated cPanels accounts, and user subdomains where they can experiment with digital lessons, create sandboxes and staging environments, and ultimately build out their online portfolio, bringing them multiple steps forward in the transition from learning to job readiness.

Broadly, interventions can also include:

  • Public-Private Partnerships:Engaging corporations and businesses to invest in Kakuma as a CSR initiative and a long-term value proposition. For instance, tech companies could establish closer relationships with refugee-led organizations on the ground and better understand and meet the technical demands within the camp.
  • Infrastructure Grants and Funding: Encouraging international organizations and governments to earmark funds for infrastructural development in refugee camps.
    Continuous Refinement:  AReL is steadfast in its dedication to making a difference. We continuously refine our programs based on data-driven insights, ensuring our interventions are impactful and durable. 


You Can Help

There's an opportunity for change for every challenge highlighted, and we call upon everyone reading this to be a part of that transformation. Whether you're an individual with resources, an organization with logistical prowess, or a business with technological supplies, your contribution can make waves.

We primarily seek strategic partnerships from entities to bolster our efforts – from supply chain logistics to hardware/software donations. Every laptop, every stable internet connection, and every wall stood up in a classroom amplifies our collective impact. 

In Kakuma, hope thrives amidst challenges. Let's turn that hope into tangible change. Support AReL's initiatives, champion our cause, and together, let's build bridges to a brighter, more connected future.

Visit our partner's page to discover ways to support or get involved.