From a child refugee to helping displaced children
The Story of UNICEF staffer Eric Dentor
Eric Dentor is UNICEF Ethiopia’s Child Protection Specialist working on prevention of gender-based violence and protecting children and their families in emergency situations from sexual exploitation and abuse.
Born in Liberia, West Africa, 40 years ago, Eric fled his homeland to Guinea when the Liberian civil war erupted in December 1989. Aged only 11 years, Eric had fled without his parents, walking two days through tropical rainforests, crossing rivers and braving rain and cold weather.
Having successfully made it to Guinea, like many refugee children, Eric was forced to live in difficult conditions in the refugee camp. He shared a tent with fifty other people even as food and other essentials were in short supply. Added to the culture and language shock was a deep feeling of isolation and loss. He sorely missed his parents.
But these difficulties did not deter Eric from enrolling in a school in the camp to learn skills and values that would later meaningfully impact his professional development. He learnt how to reach beyond his own situation to care for others.
As a child refugee, Eric benefited from a variety of humanitarian services provided by UNICEF and other United Nations agencies. These included protection and care, primary and secondary education, food, and healthcare.
Upon graduation from high school in 1998, Eric trained in the refugee school system in Guinea as a teacher. He taught refugee children from Liberia and Sierra Leone for three years. In 2001, he left teaching to start a community volunteer group to help refugee children to access various humanitarian services in the camps. Comprising only seven young volunteers, the group organized weekly community mobilization campaigns to raise awareness about child protection services available in the camps, including on gender-based violence.
After a year of community mobilization, the American Refugee Committee and the International Rescue Committee recognized Eric and his team as incentive workers, which entitled them to a monthly allowance of US$ 20 per month. Eric attended various training sessions on child protection, gender-based violence, and prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. In 2003, he started working with the American Refugee Committee on gender-based violence and prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse in the camps. He led awareness campaigns in schools and in the communities.
Then in 2004, Eric became a local programme officer for the American Refugee Committee and worked to prevent gender-based violence among Liberian and Ivorian refugees in four refugee camps in Guinea. It was the beginning of a journey that has since 2010 taken him to Haiti, Burundi, South Sudan and currently, Ethiopia. He has worked with refugees and internally displaced populations, ensuring that they are aware of the rights and services available for survivors of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.
“My passion is visiting refugees and internally displaced persons, talking to them about their fears and dreams,” he says. “I share my experiences as a child refugee and inspire them to look beyond their difficult circumstances to aspire for leadership wherever they are.”