The Mpaka Peers project is a force to unite UWC students and refugee youth in the Kingdom of Swaziland through academics, activities, and shared passions, to inspire, aid, and encourage one another. In 2017, a group of UWC and refugee students met to discuss how our friendship and resources can be combined to create a peer support network of English and communication classes, tutoring and career advising workshops, sports for women and girls, and passion development workshops. Throughout the school year, UWC students and youth members will get together to stimulate and facilitate creativity, improve schooling and career opportunities for young refugees, and create lasting connections.
Our goals are to prepare students to advance in secondary and even tertiary education, create a space for female empowerment and wellbeing through sports at the camp, and encourage young people to explore talents such as writing and music to gain recognition and raise awareness for themselves and their families. On the smaller scale, we also aim to help all students pass each year (as repeating grades is especially costly and discouraging to older students) and to establish a program at the camp for sports and activities that can continue between UWC visits.
The youth at Mpaka Refugee Camp, though eligible to enroll in school, are often unable to pay the fees or struggle to keep up with the work due to limited resources, mental health issues, disrupted educational timelines, and difﬁculties with English and SiSwati. Without quality education, the refugees’ path out of the camp is severely limited— especially in a country with a 25% unemployment rate— thus extra help with school work and mental health is invaluable to ﬁghting lack of education among refugee youth in Swaziland.
While we work with youth members of the camp, our ability to be effective and sustainable also relies on a relationship with the often less-than-efﬁcient camp administration. To navigate this issue, we have been meeting with the camp director and discussing the project so that they not only know what we’re doing but also how they can help us to maintain the programs that continue in our absence. One of the biggest challenges is the transport, as WK can only provide transport twice a term and booking external transport is quite costly. We have been able to arrange the use of the auditorium in Manzini for free, which means that transport to and from Mpaka/Waterford can be done at a lower price.
Aurora Prize money would be used as ‘seed money’ to fund the ﬁrst six months transportation and basic supplies (such as pencils, books, and balls) to increase our capacity to ﬁrmly establish the project and attract other donors by showing the efﬁcacy and importance of our program. Our budget includes transportation to and from each session, pencils and notebooks, sports equipment, and snacks for sports sessions.
- Nayantara Mukherji, Advisor, alumna of MUWCI ’02
- John Michael Koffi, Advisor, alumnus of UWC RBC ’17
- Ella Rockart, Administration
- Elisa Matz, Communications
- Kirabo Banya, English Language Support
- Nele Merholz, English Language Support
- Sara Monggaard, Girls’ Sports
- Jae Sun Kim, Tutoring and Career Support
- Ryan Panzixu, Tutoring and Career Support
- Ronja Karvinen, Creative Passions