The IWitness Japan team is now back from Damak, Nepal after witnessing how our “ Brighter Lives for Refugees” campaign has been supporting refugees to create their better lives. Well, I am still in the middle of the process of digesting what we have experienced and yet it might take some more time for me to reflect as it was a very condensed trip with many learnings.
I found the refugee camps in Damak very unique compared to what people, in general, could think of “ what a refugee camp is” . Along with a successful big resettlement to eight countries, the refugee camps are now getting smaller without clear boundaries between the remaining two camps and local community. There are many interactions between them and the communities, and they have an excellent relationship. For instance, schools in the local community are seeing a positive future in welcoming students from the refugee camps and vice versa. Students from the local community visit therefugee camps to use computers in the computer labs, which were set up a few months ago. Solar lights on a main street between the refugee camps and local community would be another good example of the sharing of resources between the two communities. Energy ambassadors were even selected from both communitiesand are now participating in the same energy training, so that either of them can do the maintenance if something happens.
After over 20 years of history in Damak, UNHCR in Nepal currently has a three year plan for 2017-2019. This is a long-term strategy to support the remaining refugees to become self-reliant, while supporting local communities and fostering harmonious relations between the two communities.
This is a very different approach from what I imagined. My original image of a refugee camp was to provide an infrastructure where refugees can at least stay for a while. In Damak, UNHCR has instead been seeking a more sustainable approach so that refugees can have brighter lives in the future, while harmoniously living amongst local communities. Especially, students have a high standard of education in the camps which will be very beneficial for them in the future. I believe this approach is exactly the same as what IKEA believes—sustainability!
I strongly feel that joining the trip was the greatest once-in-a-lifetime experience I’ve had, to witness what IKEA has done to create better lives for refugees together with UNHCR. I would like to thank all of the IKEA co-workers and customers who made this campaign successful. Here is what we have witnessed on behalf of you—children’s smiles towards brighter futures!