By Celestine Cims and Omot Oman
Omot knows what it’s like to grow up in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya. After losing his family at a young age, the camps—which have been operating for over 20 years—became his new home, but Omot felt intimidated, lost and scared.
“My school years were not easy,” says Omot. “My separation and disconnect from my family affected my self-esteem. I lost confidence in myself and preferred being alone since I felt that no one could understand my situation.”
While the camps provide refuge, they are often riddled with tension, discord and a sense of instability, making it difficult for children and youth to develop the life skills they require to grow into productive adults. Recognizing this need, we introduced our play-based programming to Dadaab’s Ifo camp in 2012. Now a young adult, Omot signed up to become a volunteer Coach.
During his training, Omot learned how to use our play- and sports-based curriculum to mobilize and empower the children in his community. He was challenged to speak out, to demonstrate activities to his peers and to lead group discussions.
“I realized the games prepared in Right To Play’s Team Up resource were not just meant for children, but also for me,” says Omot, who attributes his newfound confidence and skills to his training.
Currently there are more than 10,000 children and youth participating in our activities in the Dadaab refugee camps—all facilitated by 148 volunteer Right To Play Coaches, like Omot.
“I have seen how the children and the youth participating in the program now relate to each other,” says Omot. “They embrace one another and there is less conflict, both in and out of the play areas.”
Recently, Omot was promoted to the position of Coach Supervisor, responsible for educating other coaches and supporting their development.
“I was a lost boy in this refugee camp, a prisoner to my fears and an uncertain future,” says Omot. “Now I feel like I belong to a large family here, one that listens patiently to me and gives me the opportunity to learn from them, too. I want our Right To Play community to grow larger, so that every child and youth has the chance to play, learn positive values and express themselves.”