Muzabel Welongo

Keeping Hope Alive: 20 Years A Refugee

Muzabel Welongo was the recipient of the first JWL Alumni Scholarship in October 2014.  We asked Muzabel to give us an update of his time since receiving the award and what impact it may have given him. 


As a graduate of the Diploma in Liberal studies I was the first recipient of a Jesuit Worldwide Learning Higher Education at the Margins (JWL) Scholarship.   This scholarship enabled me to further my education here in the city of Nairobi in Kenya, Africa.  


Receiving the JWL scholarship was very important for my life.  First, furthering my education allowed me to be considered for the WISE Learners Voice Fellowship in Qatar as well as the YALI Leadership Program.  In addition, I became more confident in my leadership with my organization, SAVIC and I have seen more new partners willing to support my program because they know I am a college graduate.  Over the past six years, my work with SAVIC has made a considerable impact on the lives of the refugees, as it has also been a lesson to myself as a refugee. I lead a growing team of thirty energetic refugee workers, where I provide general strategic direction, organizational development, and fundraising. I am also a trainer and youth mentor, and I teach English, peer education, and entrepreneurship in the various SAVIC’s programs. In the past two years, I have been able to raise and manage $100,000 in grants and donations to support our programs, working in close collaboration with UNHCR and local partners. Under my leadership, 3,000 refugees have completed SAVIC’s education programs, and our sexual and reproductive health project has reached more than 8,000 young people in Kakuma.

Without the JWL scholarship, I would not have been able to grow SAVIC to this extent.  I would still be able to run my programs in the community, but the innovativeness and technical skill I have now are a product of the JWL scholarship.  All the achievements that my organization and I are making are a true legacy of the investment that Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) has put in my education and growth.

I was also recently selected as winner of the “120 Under 40” award in recognition for my leadership role in advancing adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health in the Kakuma refugee camp.  Such recognition just reminds that I have a bigger role to play ahead, in empowering displaced people and in contributing to peace and economic stability in Africa. 

This is a dream that JWL has helped me achieve.  The degree has offered the best opportunity for me to combine economics-centered approaches to policy, management of public affairs, and development. With my six years of experience in community-driven development in a refugee camp, I will utilize my skills from my JWL education to introduce more innovative projects in the SAVIC that promote education, health care, and livelihood development among displaced people, here in Kakuma and beyond.  I would like to continue to use the knowledge, skills and experience I have gained from being in JWL and the scholarship I earned to grow my role as an agent for social change, because I am more confident that I have the necessary analytical and practical problem-solving skills that can help me excel as a development practitioner and activist.  My hope is to continue with my education even further to pursue graduate studies to gain more expertise and skills that can help advance the work I have already started with fellow refugees here in Kakuma. 

I feel very lucky to have received the scholarship to complete my undergraduate studies for the Bachelor of Economics at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa hoping to graduate in May 2017. I would wish to thank JWL for all the support offered to me personally and for affecting the lives of many refugees through my leadership. I will certainly continue my role as a leader, making change through programs that improve the conditions of lives of refugees, and I will always owe JWL for any success I make in my future role as a social change agent. Thank you!