For refugees in Cairo, calm and hope amidst the challenges

Steve Weaver | September 20, 2016


Young refugees participate in a Taekwondo class at St. Andrew’s Refugee Services in Cairo. Photo: Steve Weaver / CWS

Last month, I spent some time visiting CWS partner agency St. Andrew’s Refugee Services – better known as StARS – in Cairo. StARS serves about 11,000 refugees each year with a range of critical services in the sectors of education, psychosocial support, legal aid and protection.

During my time at StARS, I observed a math class and an English class for UCY. UCY, which stands for unaccompanied children and youth, are refugees 18 years or younger that have arrived in Egypt without a parent or other guardian.  The challenges that UCY face are many, and they must manage on $45/month they receive from the United Nations.

StARS provides more services to UCY than any other agency in Cairo. Their programs are providing these children and youth with education, group activities, social worker support and social connections giving them the tools needed to better navigate living in Cairo. The program will serve over 500 UCY in the coming year.

I met one young man, an 18-year-old from Somalia, who told me he successfully completed the UCY Core Program and was recently hired by StARS to be a youth assistant in the UCY program. “This if my first job,” he told me, smiling with pride. I was impressed by his enthusiasm and confidence as he told me about his work at StARS helping other UCY students in math and other courses.

That afternoon I stopped by the weekly UCY Taekwondo class currently being offered at StARS.

The next day I attended a Refugee Status Determination workshop conducted by a StARS Legal Advisor.  RSD workshops are conducted on a regular basis to inform newly arrived refugees of the international legal framework for refugees, and what to expect at their RSD interview at UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. Receiving RSD status is critical as it provides important legal documentation as well as access to services and financial support. Thirteen recent arrivals participated in that day’s workshop. Participants were attentive, asking many questions following the presentation.

I’m proud that StARS is a source of hope and support amidst the challenges that refugees face in Cairo, and I’m looking forward to another year of partnership and striving to overcome these challenges.

Steve Weaver is the CWS Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and Europe.