The power of lived experience: Refugees supporting refugees in Ethiopia

If you’ve ever faced an overwhelming challenge, you’ll know how helpful it can be to talk to someone who has lived through what you’re going through. This is the important reason why our local partner, EOC-DICAC, has formed a team of around 22 Refugee Outreach Volunteers to assist their staff in supporting and finding solutions for refugees living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Refugee Outreach Volunteers with our local partner in Ethiopia represent a wide variety of refugee communities living in Addis, including Eritreans, Yemenis, Somalis, Sudanese and South Sudanese, and those from the Great Lakes region. Mikaela O’Neil / Act for Peace

Try and imagine how it might feel to arrive in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia’s sprawling capital city – as a refugee. You’re surrounded by unfamiliarity; the people, the streets, the culture. You don’t know what direction your life is headed, where you’ll live or how you’ll earn a living. You are grieving your old home, including the people you love most. You need support, but don’t know who or what services you can safely turn to.

Then one day, someone in the community, also a refugee, approaches you. They speak your language. They’ve been on a similar journey. They listen to your problems and help you access the support you need. They offer hope that you can make it through.

This person is a Refugee Outreach Volunteer, or ROV for short, from a local organisation called Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (EOC-DICAC).

How Refugee Outreach Volunteers are helping refugees in Ethiopia

Focusing especially on survivors of gender-based violence, refugees at risk of gender-based violence, as well as people living with a disability, ROVs are out in the community to support and lift up the voices of those living in the various refugee communities in Addis Ababa.

With first-hand experience of the challenges they’re facing, ROVs support refugees in their communities to access their services and rights, such as medical, psychosocial and livelihood support.

One ROV named Jemal* says:

“I share my contact details with everyone in the community if they need help, medical help, psychological help. If someone needs medical services, we go to the hospital with them, if they need psychology help, we go to that place. I sometimes represent the community to go to find solutions to our problems”.

Refugee Outreach Volunteers from our local partner in Ethiopia, EOC-DICAC, participate in Community Based Protection Training provided by Act for Peace. This training aims to put community members front and centre in addressing their own protection. Mikaela O’Neil / Act for Peace

Our theory of change and the importance of backing displaced people

Backing displaced people is an integral part of our theory of change strategy to work towards equitable and effective solutions to the displacement crisis.

Supporting EOC-DICAC’s team of ROVs is just one way that, together, Act for Peace is backing the participation and leadership of displaced people in developing and delivering their own solutions.

This work is only possible thanks to your support and the help of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation (ANCP).

Thank you for understanding the importance of backing displaced people like Jemal, and helping refugees in Addis Ababa to find a safe place to belong.

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