Several men sit pensively waiting for their turn on the barber’s chair. Hair will be cut. Beards will be shaved. Some will opt for a mohawk. Others will settle for a complete bald look.
We are in Kakuma refugee camp number three in Turkana West sub-county in the north of Kenya. In the barbershop of 27-year-old Pascal Ntacu, a refugee from Burundi. The camp hosts refugees from East and Central Africa.
Pascal left his parents and 5 siblings in Bujumbura when war escalated in the country in 2014. It took him a long bus ride from Bujumbura to Kampala in Uganda, and then through Malaba and Kitale town in Kenya, finally arriving in Turkana.
“I took up a job as a casual mechanic at a local garage in Kakuma as soon as I arrived from Bujumbura. However, the job was physically exhausting and I developed chest problems and multiple injuries, and had to reconsider my vocation,” says Pascal. “In May 2015, I joined a group of 4 youth - all from Burundi - who were experiencing the same challenges as myself. We were all troubled about this new life as refugees, and were determined to rise above a feeling of hopelessness.”
Pascal and his friends took a loan of KES 100,000 from AAH-I in partnership with Equity Bank, to start individual businesses. Pascal topped up his portion with savings of KES. 18,000 and purchased assorted equipment from Kakuma town and from Lodwar to start the barbershop. Within six months the group managed to pay off the loan as a group, and this gave Pascal time to concentrate on his business. “I am currently earning between KES. 500 and KES. 600 a day after deducting running costs such as consumables of methylated spirit and face towels.”
Pascal and his friends are beneficiaries of AAH Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Assistance Programme (KRAP), set up in 2015 with funding from UNHCR. One of the objectives of KRAP is to address livelihoods resilience through skills enhancement and enterprise development. Along with the loan, beneficiaries received training in August 2015. The training focused on on starting a business, entrepreneurship, building savings and self-reliance. Upon successful completion of the training, they were linked with government authorities for issuance of business permits and market access.
“Being a refugee seeking asylum in a foreign country, I appreciate the support from AAH-I. My current savings stand at KES. 9,000. Although I can now take care of myself, I long for peace to be restored in Burundi.”