Refugees are capable
The definition of refuge is “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble.” Synonyms include shelter, safety, sanctuary, and asylum.
Refuge is the immediate need and refuge is often where the focus remains.
But restoration is “the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.” Synonyms include mending, repairing, and rebuilding.
Refuge isn’t meant to be the end goal. Restoration is.
Guy Riyal, “Wisdom” Seed Effect Savings & Loan Group.
At Seed Effect, our desire is to be a catalyst for restoration of refugees. As we continue to expand in Uganda and beyond our hope is for more refugees to gain access to the development tools they need, including Christ-centered, saving-led microfinance. Our prayer is to see refugees empowered to know Jesus and provide for their families with dignity.
“As soon as we recognize the assumption that refugees will go home quickly is a fiction, then it becomes imperative to embrace a development-based approach as early in a refugee crisis as possible.” 1
–Betts and Collier, Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World
Guy Riyal and “Wisdom” Seed Effect Savings & Loan Group during their weekly meeting.
THE BROKEN SYSTEM
In their book, Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, political scientist, Alexander Betts, and economist, Paul Collier, call out the paramount realities in today’s refugee system:
1. Worldwide, 54% of refugees are in protracted situations.
The average length of exile being 26 years.
2. Refugees are “often denied access to the right to work or to freedom of movement.”1
“The current system for refugees who remain in their region of origin is a disaster,” note Betts and Collier.
“It is premised upon an almost exclusively ‘humanitarian’ response. A system designed for the emergency phase — to offer an immediate lifeline — ends up enduring year after year, sometimes for a decade.
External provision of food, clothing, and shelter is absolutely essential in the aftermath of having to run for your life. But over time, if it is provided as a substitute for access to jobs, education, and other opportunities, humanitarian aid soon undermines human dignity and autonomy.”2
UGANDA IS UNIQUE
Unlike the broken system described by Betts and Collier, Uganda presents unique opportunity. Uganda is one of few host countries in the world offering refugees the right to work and freedom of movement. Uganda’s policy has provided Seed Effect the opportunity to serve both South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans living alongside them.
Over the last three years Seed Effect has tracked data across both populations to compare program effectiveness. It might be assumed that the comparative results were vastly different however, the data revealed just the opposite.
Ugandans are successfully saving, investing, and paying back small loans to provide for their families. From the data, we see that South Sudanese refugees are successfully doing the same. This supports Betts and Collier’s case for a new, development-based approach in response to the world’s refugee crisis.
Vicky, “Saint Emmanuel” Seed Effect Savings & Loan Group
1Betts and Collier, Refuge, 54. 2Betts and Collier, Refuge, 136.