• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Canadians' shoes are on the other foot now - in Rwanda

News Stories, 6 August 2008

© UNHCR/T.Maurer
Refugees like these in Rwanda usually have to patch and repair their shoes, but now many will be getting new ones, thanks to the generosity of Canadians.

OTTAWA, CANADA, Aug. 6 (UNHCR) More than 4,000 refugees in Rwanda will no longer have to go barefoot, thanks to the generosity of Sole Responsibility, a Canadian non-profit organization that is once again helping UNHCR put shoes on refugees' feet.

"It will certainly be of great help to our refugees since it's now the rainy season and the refugees are in the wet and mud with no shoes," said UNHCR Representative in Rwanda Annette Nyekan, who was extremely pleased to hear some 4,100 pairs of shoes are on the way.

"I was trying since last year to find shoes for refugees in Rwanda," added Paul Ndaitouroum, UNHCR Senior Desk Officer in Geneva for Central Africa and the Great Lakes Region.

Sole Responsibility is a grassroots organization based in Ottawa whose mission is to provide footwear to the displaced people of the world. It collects gently worn running and walking shoes, and raises funds to ensure shipment to selected refugee camps.

"We are extremely grateful to Sole Responsibility for all the efforts made in collecting and donating shoes for refugees and displaced populations in different parts of the world and ensuring that they get to their destination," said Abraham Abraham, UNHCR's Representative in Canada. "The shoes will allow and encourage refugee children to go to school, play and feel dignified and cared for."

Since its first shoe collection in 2005, Sole Responsibility has collected close to 15,000 pairs of shoes and has worked with UNHCR send the shoes to places where they are needed most.

For the past three years, beneficiaries of this programme have been internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees in Chad and Sudan's Darfur region. In 2007, priority was given to refugees and IDPs in the Goz Amir Refugee Camp in eastern Chad after a fire destroyed hundreds of refugee shelters.

Sole Responsibility shoe collections are organized in collaboration with schools and running clubs; shipping costs are covered by asking people to donate cash along with the shoes.

After four successful campaigns, Sole Responsibility is already looking forward to next year's drive. "People here are eager to help and are very appreciative of UNHCR's work in the field," says Sole Responsibility's representative Jennifer North. "We really enjoy doing this project and we think we can expand it, both geographically and with items that we are collecting,"

By Gisèle Nyembwe in Ottawa, Canada

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Children

Almost half the people of concern to UNHCR are children. They need special care.

Refworld – Children

This Special Feature on Child Protection is a comprehensive source of relevant legal and policy documents, practical tools and links to related websites.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are children who have sought shelter in urban areas with their families. Unlike those in camps, refugees living in towns and cities in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Jordan often find it difficult to gain access to aid and protection. In a refugee camp, it is easier for humanitarian aid organizations such as UNHCR to provide shelter and regular assistance, including food, health care and education. Finding refugees in urban areas, let alone helping them, is no easy task.

In Iraq, about 100,000 of the 143,000 Syrian refugees are believed to be living in urban areas - some 40 per cent of them are children aged under 18 years. The following photographs, taken in the northern city of Erbil by Brian Sokol, give a glimpse into the lives of some of these young urban refugees. They show the harshness of daily life as well as the resilience, adaptability and spirit of young people whose lives have been overturned in the past two years.

Life is difficult in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The cost of living is high and it is difficult to find work. The refugees must also spend a large part of their limited resources on rent. UNHCR and its partners, including the Kurdish Regional Government, struggle to help the needy.

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

A UNHCR-funded project in Kabul, Afghanistan, is helping to keep returnee children off the streets by teaching them to read and write, give them room to play and offer vocational training in useful skills such as tailoring, flower making, and hairstyling.

Every day, Afghan children ply the streets of Kabul selling anything from newspapers to chewing gum, phone cards and plastic bags. Some station themselves at busy junctions and weave through traffic waving a can of smoking coal to ward off the evil eye. Others simply beg from passing strangers.

There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 street children in the Afghan capital alone. Among them are those who could not afford an education as refugees in Iran or Pakistan, and are unable to go to school as returnees in Afghanistan because they have to work from dawn to dusk to support their families. For the past seven years, a UNHCR-funded project has been working to bring change.

Posted on 12 November 2008

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

Ethiopia: Far From Home Play video

Ethiopia: Far From Home

Nyabuka Lam arrived in Pagak, Ethiopia in September after escaping armed men who shot her three children and husband back in her home country, South Sudan. After walking for 15 days to reach the safety of Pagak, she is now finally on a path to recovery.
South Sudan: Grandma Abuk's ChildrenPlay video

South Sudan: Grandma Abuk's Children

Years of violence and bloodshed in South Sudan robbed Abuk of her seven children. When fighting returned last year, the old lady fled anew with her grandchildren, hampered by deteriorating eyesight.
Iraq: Children traumatised by the terror of flightPlay video

Iraq: Children traumatised by the terror of flight

When militants attacked Sinjar and other towns in northern Iraq in early August, tens of thousands of people fled into the mountains. They included many traumatised children, whose lives were brutally disrupted by violence and their sudden displacement.