“Today we live happily in peace,” says Isaac*, a representative of Nigerian refugees in Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon. He has been working in the camp since an escalation of violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency hit Nigeria in 2013. Thousands of people were forced to flee the country, finding refuge around Mayo Tsanaga, in the far north of Cameroon.
“Although the coexistence with the local community is currently great, it has been a progressive work, it is not easy to arrive in a foreign country with nothing.” When they arrived, they had neither a job nor a home. “The biggest challenge was to learn the local languages, at the beginning, we could not even communicate,” continues Isaac.
JRS, together with other organisations, is on the ground promoting socio-economic resilience and social cohesion activities in Minawao refugee camp. Activities such as fish farming, agriculture, and running small businesses greatly impact both the refugees and the local community. Ensuring the self-sufficiency of refugees and the fulfillment of their potential is essential to strengthen bonds and facilitate connections between the two communities.
After almost a decade of peaceful coexistence, Isaac proudly says refugees now speak the local languages of the far north of Cameroon, and even the local community is learning Nigerian languages. Emmanuel*, a Nigerian refugee, runs his own bakery. He bakes bread for the whole community, “this business helps me solve my family problems, assist my children, and contribute to the economy of the community”. Marie* has great cooking skills, which she demonstrates every day with the large clientele of her small restaurant in Cameroon. “Thanks to my business, I provide employment to other women, we are happy working together.”
Language draws people close to each other. Living and working together enable Isaac, Emmanuel, and Marie to be in harmony with the local community. “That’s exactly what we were looking for when we left Nigeria: peace,” concludes Isaac.
JRS remains committed to building bridges between refugees and local communities, to strengthen ties so that we create a peaceful future for everyone.
*name of fantasy to protect the identity of the person.