Youth Committee provides new opportunities for adolescents in Kalma camp

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Sudan /2005/El Tigani
In Kalma camp in southern Darfur, a football team celebrates victory after the big match. The new Youth Committee helped organize the match.

By Eman El Tigani

KALMA CAMP, South Darfur, Sudan, 1 November 2005 – Kalma is the largest of Darfur’s camps for people forced to flee their homes by the conflict, with a population of more than 150,000, including many different cultures, languages and ethnicities.

The United Nations and non-governmental organizations run basic social services for the residents. These include centres for women and for children, health clinics and primary schools. But until recently, a significant segment of this community had been overlooked.

Adolescents, who represent 35 per cent of the camp’s population, had very few services or activities intended specifically for them. They are away from their home villages; many are out of school and have little to do. A riot in May, in which many adolescents participated, put a spotlight on the problem.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Sudan /2005/El Tigani
A supporter cheers the players during a Youth Committee football match. The Youth Committee has provided the camp’s adolescents with activities and opportunities to get involved.

Mobilizing youth participation

The situation for adolescents in Kalma is now changing. UNICEF and the Sudanese Popular Committee for Relief and Rehabilitation (SPCR) have been working to improve the quality of life for young people living in the camp, by encouraging them to participate in meaningful and productive activities through the new Youth Committee.

Kalma’s Youth Committee invites all young people in the camp to join in. The leaders include sixteen adolescent boys and girls who coordinate youth activities throughout the camp.

“We have regular meetings to discuss youth concerns,” says Mohammed, 16 and a member of the Youth Committee. “For example, we mobilized all the youths for the camp-wide hygiene campaign to help deal with overflowing community latrines due to the recent heavy rain. We covered all the latrine pit holes around the camp.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Sudan /2005/El Tigani
Groups of women singing and playing drums during the game.

Football and celebration

The Youth Committee also helped organize a month-long football tournament for the whole camp, with a championship match between the two leading teams. The tournament was a source of happiness for many residents – not because all of them are football fans, but because this was the first occasion for the community to come together in celebration, despite the obvious and ongoing hardships of camp life.

The championship game was an opportunity for enthusiastic adolescents like 18-year-old Mohammed (another of the same name) to show off their skills and have fun. Mohammed arrived in the camp last June. “I was studying in Khartoum Secondary school,” he says. “I came to South Darfur to visit my family in Yasseen village when the conflict started.

“To escape from the conflict, my family and I fled to Nyala. Without anywhere to go, we then went to Kalma Camp. For a long time, we had nothing to do. I became bored from it after awhile.”

Mohammed says the Youth Committee has given him a new sense of purpose and responsibility. “Since the youth committees were established, I became a member representing Sector Seven of the camp. Today I came to play [in the football match] on behalf of that sector. I wish a big success for my team.”   


Sabine Dolan contributed to this report from New York.


 

 

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