In East Darfur State, UMCOR vocational trainings and work opportunities provide hope and improve livelihoods.
By David Tereshchuk *
November, 26, 2013—Amid the many efforts to establish peace in the vast and long-troubled nation of Sudan, the creation of the new state of East Darfur last year is holding out some hope that life could improve for ordinary Darfurians – two million of whom have been displaced from their homes since violence peaked there a decade ago.
UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, began working in Sudan in February 2005, initially providing material support for the displaced in camps, and since then it has expanded its programs to include peace-building and help with education, agriculture and food security, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene projects.
One important project, with a special emphasis on women, is dedicated to promoting vocational training and work opportunities for both young people and adults in East Darfur State. According to the UN Refugee Agency, only 15 percent of the population of Darfur lived in urban centers prior to the conflict in 2003. By 2011, 50 percent of Darfur’s population was living in urban areas. This rapid urbanization has meant that displaced populations often do not have the skills necessarily to find work in an urban environment. Imparting job skills to those in need of them — and in many cases the capacity for entrepreneurship — is a priority. Over time, the training itself has had substantial upgrading through the enhancement of skills among the instructors.
UMCOR has been collaborating with the DAL Group, Sudan’s largest and most diversified business conglomerate, which includes activities ranging from engineering to food production, and provides advanced vocational training for women from Darfur. The women were enabled to travel to DAL’s Baking Development Centre in the national capital, Khartoum.
One of them is 35-year-old Marrawa, from East Darfur’s state capital of El Daein. She studied at the University of Omdurman, but after graduation she was unable, amid the country’s upheaval, to find her hoped-for career in government. Instead, she opted for starting a business of her own, learning baking skills from her older sister.
She began by preparing baked goods in her family home to sell in the local market, making a far-from-steady income that would average at about 18 U.S. dollars a month. She had no access to capital and lacked the kind of equipment she would need to upgrade her business. But Marrawa has been hired by UMCOR as a trainer for women at the El Neem Internally Displaced Persons camp, teaching food processing and baking.
Marrawa qualified for the UMCOR-supported training course in Khartoum to upgrade her abilities to an advanced level. She now reports that her understanding of new technologies was greatly boosted in the areas of pasta-making, cookies and cake-decoration. “The training gave me more skills and knowledge of baking methods and recipes, which I will now share with other women,” she says.
Marrawa adds: “Those who really want to be successful in their own life, and have a positive impact and make a good contribution to the prosperity of their communities, should never feel that it is too late to learn.”
Another training program offered is car maintenance and repair. The DAL Group once again contributes the practical resources at its major automobile workshop in Khartoum.
Two of the men selected for the training are Salih Adeeib Ahmed Ali and Adam Abdallah Ibrahim. Their classes brought them a new and valuable familiarity with cars they previously had encountered at home only rarely, especially the Korean models that are now becoming much more common.
Ibrahim, 30 years old and married, previously worked as a driver before getting a job with an auto shop in El Daein’s market. “The training was for both gas and diesel vehicles,” he says “It included maintenance of the engine and the gear-box, as well putting together and dismantling accessories and tools.
“We are very grateful to UMCOR,” Ibrahim goes on, “and when we go back to El Daein we will share this knowledge with others, as well as applying what we learned in our own workshops.”
The importance of such training programs is emphasized by Amin El Fadil of UMCOR-Sudan. He comments: “It is one of UMCOR’s main programmatic interventions in the newly-established state of East Darfur that we enhance the capacities of vulnerable communities who have been badly affected by conflict and displacement, through imparting new trades and skills.”
El Fadil says it is an all-important initiative for the building of sustained recovery. “This program has significantly contributed to enhancing the communities’ resilience to cope with the shocks and stress associated with a fragile livelihood system such as in Darfur.”
Your gift to Sudan Emergency Advance #184385 will help damaged communities like those in East Darfur build up the capacity to enhance their livelihoods.
* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to UMCOR.org
If you support this project on Giving Tuesday, December 3, Global Ministries will allocate the “matching funds” dollar for dollar up to the first $500,000 in gifts to Advance projects received online on December 3, 2013, between 12:00 a.m. EST and 11:59 p.m. A maximum of $10,000 per individual gift to a project will be dispersed as matching funds. A project may receive a maximum of $50,000 in matching funds.