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The Unseen Face of Refugees

Photo credit: Amy Toensing

At first glance, this child looks like a typical African girl. But there’s more to her story than the picture reveals. She is a refugee struggling to survive in the slums of Nairobi amid horrific living conditions, with a future that is anything but safe or certain.

Her life is typical for a refugee girl in Africa. She is at risk of sexual violence and exploitation, an early arranged marriage to an older man she has not met, and a life without medical care or education.
RefugePoint, an Aid for Africa member, helps to relocate African refugees in life-threatening situations to countries where they can rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. Women and girls make up 80 percent of the refugee population, and RefugePoint works to support, educate, and transition them to better, stable lives. RefugePoint has seen first-hand how girls can thrive with the right support— girls like Edith and Yar. 

Edith is studying to be a nurse.

When Edith was three, she was the only member of her family to survive the Rwandan genocide in 1994. She escaped to refugee camps in Tanzania, then Nairobi. RefugePoint  then assisted  with food, financial, medical, and educational support and eventually helped her resettle in the United States with a Michigan foster family. Edith is flourishing in college, where she is studying to become a nurse.

Yar is one of 89 "Lost Girls" of Sudan.

Yar too escaped terrible violence. As a child she fled her village after a brutal attack during Sudan’s civil war. Separated from her family, she eventually made it to a refugee camp in Kenya, where only boys were permitted to go to school. Determined to learn, Yar sneaked into the school to study at night. Eventually, she was one of only 89 “Lost Girls” to be resettled in the United States, as were the hundreds of “Lost Boys” of Sudan.  She is now pursuing a Master’s degree in business.

On World Refugee Day we recognize the courage and struggle of refugees in Africa and around the world, particularly girls and women who are more affected by violence than any other population of women in the world.  It is a day for them to be seen for who they are and who they can become. 

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 See more of Amy Toensing’s photos of urban children refugees: In the Shadows