‘I was part of a group of young men who played dominoes from morning until evening. We were seven of us; young guys who’d finished high school, idle with nothing to do in the community. We started playing dominoes from 8:00 am till 7: 00 pm in the evening. Sometimes we even missed lunch just to keep playing.’
Peter Mabor is a 26-year-old young man living in Kakuma Refugee Camp. He hails from South Sudan and lives with his 14 siblings and 2 parents, him being the second born in his family. Since completing his KCSE in a local school within the settlement, he had the ambition to pursue teaching. His passion for teaching was awoken for deep down inside he longed to help youths like him when he became older.
‘After high school, I tried pursuing some scholarships but it didn’t work out. The only alternative I got after failing to secure scholarships was to enroll in a tertiary institution and train in Sustainable Development. Right now, I am hoping to pursue a degree in this field in the near future, not here in Kakuma, but in Nairobi.’
Peter is optimistic about pursuing his further education in the cold capital city of Kenya and is working to make this dream come true. He admits that before volunteering, he had a simple life which included playing dominos every day and at any time in Kakuma 2 market with his friends until someone else came into the picture.
‘I have a friend who works in Nairobi. I remember when he came to visit me at Kakuma in 2018.’
His friend, Joshua*, realized that all seven of them completed their KCSE in 2017 and were unemployed. Also, he came to know that none of them were pursuing any vocational training or taking any of the free courses offered by NGOs and CBOs in Kakuma Refugee Camp. For over 10 hours, Peter and his friends wasted time on boardgames. However, Joshua was not going to let this continue if it was not helping his friend. For this reason, he visited them at their homes and tried to talk them out of it, but it was all in vain.
‘Joshua came to the game one day and found us playing dominoes. He grabbed all of the dominoes from the table, then threw them into a pit latrine just to put his point across, and to show how serious he was. That was the end of our game. Until now, I haven’t touched dominoes again.'
This happened in September 2018. After this incident, Peter decided to get serious with life and that’s when he started vocational training courses and obtained over 6 certificates, one of them being ICT. During this time, he slowly understood what he was supposed to do in life. After training, he applied for small-time gigs to earn a living.
‘I worked on short-term contracts for small projects with organizations operating in Kakuma Refugee Camp. The payments were not satisfactory because I couldn’t afford daily expenses and I was forced to ask for external help. I decided to try my hand in volunteering to sharpen my skills. And maybe gain access to bigger opportunities while at it.’
A few years had passed and Peter was now a young father, a state that prompted him to do more to provide for his child. This is one of the major reasons that pushed him to volunteer in Kakuma.
‘Several months after sitting for my KCSE, I volunteered to teach ICT at the high school as I waited to get a job, a real job. This was before I found myself jobless and playing dominoes. So, you see, I still had it in me to follow my dreams. For those friends I used to play dominoes with, they too turned their lives around and signed up with the local institutes for vocational training. 6 of us are now working and providing for our families.
‘I joined Resilience Action International (RAI) as a volunteer in January 2020. At that time, there was no job advertisement or volunteer call from the organization. I just found myself applying for a job vacancy that didn’t exist yet.’
COVID-19 in Kenya forced him and the rest of his colleagues to work from home. During this time, he taught online classes on popular virtual spaces and followed up with his students’ progress until the return of in-person classes in October 2020. By this time, he was used to volunteering at RAI and things weren’t as tough as the first time.
‘I got used to the job, enjoyed it, and never got worried about payment. After all, teaching is my passion! I was patient because I knew, sooner or later, the time will come when I’ll secure a job and start earning. The entire year I volunteered at RAI; I never missed a single day nor did I ever take a sick leave considering I rarely fall sick. For this reason, I used to cover shifts for my colleagues whenever they were unwell or were unavailable.
‘Four months into volunteering, I almost gave up. Nonetheless, I decided not to leave teaching halfway. I saw I had come too far to just give up in the middle of everything. So, I just pulled my big boy pants up and committed to my cause for the next 8 months. I had the strong desire to complete what I had started. My volunteering experience at RAI was good. I was treated as one of the staff and socializing with everyone, including students was an amazing experience’
And true to his words, Peter completed 1 year of volunteer after which he signed an employment contract with RAI at the end of January 2021. He is now an English teacher at the RAI campus in Kakuma, Kenya. Besides, he’s not the only teacher in his family. One of Peter’s younger brothers is a teacher at a local secondary school within Kakuma Refugee Camp. Now, both of them serve as an inspiration to their siblings and friends.
'For those who want to volunteer, don’t do it to get paid or obtain monetary benefits. You should volunteer for knowledge. The whole year I was doing my internship, it wasn’t as terrible as I thought. I gained knowledge on a lot of things and added new experiences to my skills.'
'Take for example my task in handling computer duties in the ICT class. I had to print and scan documents, activities which I was never used to before. Even in teaching, I learned a lot. When you teach, it’s like reminding yourself the language you’ve learned and it puts your vocabulary into use.’