In late March 2011, forty internally displaced Somali youth in Galkayo, Puntland graduated from a five-month vocational skills training program funded by the Canada Fund for Local initiative (CFLI) and supported by the UN Refugee Agency- UNHCR.
The vocational skills training program aimed to equip internally displaced Somali boys with readily applicable skills, such as carpentry and welding. These skills would enable the youth generate income to support themselves and their families.
Among those who graduated this year from the program is 18 year-old Barre Abdirahman Aden, who last year was displaced from Baidoa in Central Somalia to Galkayo in search for economic opportunities and to escape the almost two decade civil conflict.
“Life in Baidoa was difficult,” Barre says. “My family had little money and my parents each earned three dollars a day from washing and ironing clothes which was not enough to meet all our basic needs.”
Barre left his family in Baidoa and moved to Galkayo - a tiring journey that took five days by bus. He moved in with his aunt, who lives in the Al Aamin internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in North Galkayo, not knowing that he would be part of a group of 40 boys who would enrol in a five-month vocational skills training program supported by Canada.
UNHCR and a local partner, the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD), embarked on a selection process to identify young boys from IDP camps all over Galkayo who were engaged in low-paying jobs like shoe shining or garbage collection, but who had no usable skills to sustain long-term employment.
Barre was one of those selected for the course. He and his fellow classmates would then spend their days – and sometimes nights – over a five-month period learning useful skills including welding and carpentry.
After completing and graduating from the course in late March this year, the boys were each given start-up kits containing some basic, essential tools to help them secure work and ultimately set up their own businesses.
“The course has changed my life in many ways.” Barre says. “I come from a poor background just like the others in the IDP camp but I’m determined to be successful. I dream of owning my own garage where I can practice my welding skills. When I get enough money, I will definitely bring my family here and give them a better life than the one they know now. I am forever grateful for this opportunity.”
The CFLI is a program through which the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi supports projects at the community level in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. The main objective of the Fund is to finance small development projects which provide technical and economic support in the areas of good governance, democratic development and human rights.
According to the Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya and Ambassador to Somalia H.E. David Collins, local initiatives such as the UNHCR supported vocational training, although small, have the potential of creating a positive ripple effect in assisting the people of Somalia in overcoming their difficulties and in building a brighter future for their country. Somalia has faced close to two decades of civil conflict.
“It is always great to hear stories of Canadian funded projects - such as this training - that are leaving positive and lasting imprints on the lives of the people of Somalia”, said the High Commissioner.
UNHCR Somalia Representative Bruno Geddo, also hailed the positive impact the skills training program had on the students.
There are currently 139,000 IDPs living in Puntland with 60,000 of them living in 21 settlements in Galkayo.