The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates the existence of over 80 million forcibly displaced people. 26 million are refugees, the majority of whom live in impoverished countries and do not receive any form of aid or support. ‘They may flee their homes with just the clothes on their backs,’ the UNHCR Livelihoods and Self-Reliance homepage reads, ‘but forcibly displaced people always carry something of considerable value: their knowledge, skills, and experience.’
This statement is highly relevant for refugees in Kampala. Kampala refugees, mainly coming from neighboring countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Rwanda, and South Sudan, often have important business experience or interest in learning new skills. Especially because urban refugees are not provided with material assistance (such as shelter or food), refugees in Kampala strive to become self-reliant. However, many do not know English when they first arrive in Uganda and struggle to find programs where they can become trained in livelihoods.
The Bondeko Refugee Livelihoods Center addresses this gap by providing a Livelihoods Program run by refugees themselves, where refugees can learn skills in their own native language as well as learn English, and find a community to develop social networks within and beyond.
Working Towards a Better Tomorrow
The Bondeko Refugee Livelihoods Center (Bondeko Center) is a nationally-registered, refugee-run organization founded in 1997, by Reverend Father Michael Lingisi, in response to refugees fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He felt deeply concerned about his fellow refugees' conditions in Uganda and thought of doing something despite all challenges.
Bondeko Center supports impoverished, often traumatized refugees, especially women and children, who reach Uganda's capital Kampala without connections or aid. More than 2,500 refugees' households, many of whom live nearby in Najjanankumbi, Massajja, Zana, Ndejje, Kabowa, Ndeba, Kibuye, Makindye, Katwe, and Nsambya are members of Bondeko Center and participate in its various activities.
In addition to offering shelter, food, and newcomer orientation for registration at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Bondeko Center has become a place where the resilience, innovation, and the determination of refugees to support one another is taking place. An English Class For Adult (EFA) was one of the first activities to be implemented in the beginning, in order to break the language barrier as well as to enable local integration and to increase possibilities for finding work.
Since 2013, the center has increasingly focused on livelihoods activities through its Livelihoods Program. The program is comprised of different activities that target the women, men, and youth of Bondeko Center. A micro-savings group of 43 women, called Bondeko's Women Savings Group, is now in its eighth yearlong cycle of savings and is very successful. Bondeko Center has also opened a bakery at its headquarters, where buns are baked and sold. In 2014, mushroom growing was initiated, and in 2015 the tailoring section of the Livelihoods Program was able to open its own small shop approximately 100 meters from the center.
Bondeko Center is in touch with the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) and has received support from the Finnish Refugee Council (FRC), African Center for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), Xavier Project, and small private donors.
The first committee was formed in 2014 after Bondeko's founder was resettled in Canada. Five years later, in 2018, when the former Executive Director Thierry Inongi was resettled in Canada too, a new Executive Director replaced him, and a second committee which is currently leading Bondeko Centre was formed. Xavier Project has provided capacity-building training to strengthen our leadership and management skills and meet financial auditing requirements. Our offices are opened from Monday to Friday to serve both refugees and law income nationals in the community.
We are a refugee-led organization.
FATHER MICHAEL LINGISI
Father Michael is the founder of Bondeko Centre. He is a Congolese Priest who lived in Kampala for many years and was resettled in Canada in 2014.
PAUL BAHATI BEBIN KITHIMA
Paul Bahati Bebin Kithima is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He is a Humanitarian, Consultant on the Documentation & Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, a film Director, and an Author.
He became the Executive Director of the Bondeko Refugee Livelihoods Centre in 2018.
Willy supports Paul, the Bondeko director, in the day-to-day management of Bondeko Centre and the long-term vision. He is an architect from the DRC.
Aimee is a statistician from the DRC. In addition to acting as Bondeko treasurer, she is the founder and leader of the Bondeko Women of Hope Micro-Savings Group and an interpreter for the US Resettlement Agency.
Helene offers guidance and practical support to the women and children living at Bondeko Centre, as well as other Bondeko Members.
MBAYA KABUNDA ZEBEDEE
Mbaya is the principal advisor for the management committee of Bondeko Centre. He is originally from the DRC.
In addition to his role as an advisor, Olivier acts as the supervisor for Bondeko mushrooms growing project and for the briquettes project.
LEONARD KAPITA MANUKININA
In addition to his role as Bondeko Secretary, Leon is in charge of the English For Adults and Youth program