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    Reminding Jacob that he's not alone

    Day 258

    Staying Well

    You may remember the Refugee Coalition on East Africa (RefCEA), the umbrella organization in Nairobi that unites and supports LGBTIQ refugees regionally through advocacy, strategy, fundraising and research. Jacob heads up RefCEA, dedicating his waking hours lifting up the voices of other LGBTIQ refugees and help them transition from surviving to thriving.

    Because Kenya is a country where being LGBTIQ is criminalized, it is often a a place of transit for the refugee community. Finding a persecution and discrimination-free world through resettlement in a third country is a common dream for any refugee, but especially LGBTIQ refugees who face double persecution and discrimination.

    Unfortunately, the percentage of people who are granted resettlement is very low. And earlier this summer, Jacob was one of the lucky ones to receive a notice of his resettlement hearing, the process by which you appear before a judge to be granted permission to leave the country and be resettled somewhere else. Jacob was ecstatic and was gearing up for this very important hearing. But on the day that he was supposed to appear, he was confronted with urgent community protection issues which resulted in him missing his hearing. Missing your hearing is a huge deal as you’re not always granted another one, and as you can imagine, Jacob and his community were absolutely devastated.

    When Shamaila and I arrived in Nairobi a few weeks later, we met Jacob at a cafe to catch up and discuss next steps. But we noticed there was something different about him. He was not his usual positive and confident self. His hope for a better future was missing. And his energy was running low.

    And so, after reuniting with giant hugs, we sat down and gave him a little surprise – a wellness kit full of love. The kit included things to help him care for himself, such as a journal, a book of mindfulness, calming body oils, and a bar of lavender soap. It also included a dishtowel saying “Loved in MN,” and a small “You Are Beautiful” button.

    Mental health is such a critical component of self-care and fulfilling basic needs, though often one that gets de-prioritized. These items symbolized the importance of caring for yourself. The simple act of taking a shower to cleanse yourself of the past or spending some time reflecting and writing down your thoughts. Of having the delightful yet unexpected things to remind him that especially in his difficult situation, he is never alone and always loved.

    Upon receiving this gift, Jacob’s mouth dropped. With a huge smile on his face, he told us, “I am so speechless of what you have done for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

    We stayed at the cafe for the next few hours, enjoying a meal and catching up on each other’s lives. When we left, it was clear that Jacob was yet again different than how he had arrived, in the best way possible. He had bounced back to be more like himself. He was full of hope and joy. He was ready to continue advocating for a better future.

    And that’s exactly what he did. With some help from a lawyer, he petitioned for another hearing date, and within a few weeks, he was granted resettlement in Canada. Upon traveling the following week, Jacob took the items of his wellness kit with him, sending photos to us along the way of him in transit to his new life, one that would be safe from persecution and filled with endless opportunities.


    Meet Jamie! Jamie is Alight’s Global Inclusivity Advisor based out of London, UK, and works with our teams internationally to ensure marginalized communities are given the tools necessary to live lives filled with joy, meaning and purpose. He is particularly passionate about working with LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees in East Africa, who are some of the world’s most vulnerable. Need to contact Jamie? Feel free to reach out:


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    Changemakers 365

    by Alight


    The world’s tough problems can seem insurmountable. So at Alight, while we tackle those big problems we also do what’s doable. Right then. And that’s what Changemakers 365 is all about. Learn more!


    Changemakers 365 members give either $30 per month or a one-time gift of $365 (it’s free for anyone who has ever lived in a refugee camp). Join us!

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