1. Russia

Voice of America – English: Ugandan Refugee Uses Yoga to Promote Well-being in Kenyan Camp

Listen to this article

Dressed in a bright pink vest, Rita Brown is practicing yoga outside her house. 

But Rita is no ordinary yogi, she’s an Ugandan refugee, who also happens to be a yoga instructor living in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. 

Rita arrived in Kakuma from Uganda in 2000 after fleeing conflict between a rebel group and the local community. Rita was only 7 years old. 

Rita took up yoga in 2019 through the Africa Yoga project. After completing her training, she started offering classes to refugees and humanitarian workers in Kakuma. 

Some research suggests that yoga enhances social well-being and can also improve some symptoms of depression and sleep disorders. 

Rita adds that yoga has also helped her cope with the hardships of growing up in a refugee camp for many years without parents. Now a mother of one, with a diploma in social studies, she has come to accept her life. 

She is among the first professional refugee yogis in the camp. She has moved her classes online because of COVID-19 restrictions, reaching even more people with her message of self-acceptance and mental well-being. 

Personal initiatives like Rita’s toward addressing mental health are in line with UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency’s priority to ensure access to mental health for refugees in the camp. 

During the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown measures that came into effect, psycho-social counselors have been providing virtual counselling to people of concern, including those in quarantine and isolation facilities. Toll free helplines are also available to ensure people have unhindered access to counsellors and other mental health services. 

Through her online classes, Rita is already doing her part to address some of these issues. 

UNHCR and its partners are providing counselling and other services as part of COVID-19 interventions, but more funding and support is required to ensure refugees and their hosts get the help they need. 

Download video:

Voice of America – English