The Kakuma refugee camp was established in 1991 and is located near the border between Kenya and South Sudan adjacent to Lake Turkana. It is administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and falls under the jurisdiction of the Kenyan government. Kakuma, meaning “nowhere” in Swahili, occupies a dry, desolate land with few trees.
In July 2017 after some difficulty, a team from Seeds of South Sudan received permission from Refugee Assistance Services to visit the camp. They met with the camp director, David Mgatia. He informed SoSS that 171,000 people live within Kakuma 1-5 regions. Nearly three fourths of the refugees – 71 percent– are from South Sudan. More than 800 South Sudanese, primarily women and children, were arriving each week. New arrivals are sent to Kalobeyei Settlement Camp.
Kakuma has distinct communities and local tribes look after orphans from their home area. The SoSS visit was to Kakuma 1, established in 1992, and from where over 3,000 original lost boys including Arok Garang left for their new lives in the U.S in 2001. Friday July 21st was hot and muggy, as Kakuma had received its first rain in two years.
The SoSS team of three met with young students, all desperate for the same things that the original Lost Boys longed for: peace, freedom, and an education. They interviewed 46 students and stayed for their meal of the day. The World Food Program provides one meal, a bowl of beans, each day. Because of the continuing influx of new refugees, WFP has had to cut rations even further for that single meal.
Those with some education try to teach the younger ones, but class sizes can exceed 400. It is no place to build a future. That is why Seeds of South Sudan has been working since 2008 to raise funds to pay for the education of South Sudanese orphans in boarding schools in Kenya.