The Nakivale Refugee Settlement is one of the biggest refugee camps in the world and accommodates over 70,000 people. It is located in western Uganda near the border of Tanzania. The majority of inhabitants are youth with very limited possibilities to go to school or take part in education. Nakivale is a dusty environment with high poverty. Because of instabilities, frequent coups overthrowing governments in the region of Eastern Africa, victims and perpetrators often live side by side in Nakivale and create immense tensions in the settlement. Life is a constant struggle and food rations from the United Nations are continuously being cut down. While many passively wait for the unlikely resettlement to Europe or America some youth are actively shaping their own future and improve the lives of the entire refugee community through social entrepreneurship.
OPPORTUNIGEE is the world’s first self-organized social entrepreneurship hub within a refugee settlement. Refugees are creating their own opportunities. It is a self-organized replication and adaptation of the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) from Mpigi, Uganda and its empowerment model in a new context.
Three refugee scholars from Nakivale joined SINA in 2016 and went through its Purpose Safari. They experienced and impersonated the unique SINA culture that allowed them to transform their difficult past into a strength. They become coaches and mentors and together with SINA created OPPORTUNIGEE in their home community. Creating a life in dignity and peace in Uganda means refugees do not need to continue their journey but actively build their lives in Uganda. OPPORTUNIGEE started with the construction of a learning environment built out of plastic bottles in October 2016. Today 40 young refugees are coming to OPPORTUNIGEE every day to create a future for themselves. They own the place and they run it fully. The SINA framework allows to unleash potentials through sessions, life-coaching and mentoring until the youth creates a successful social enterprise generating income and improving the living standards in the refugee camp. Decisions are made together and everyone is their own boss creating his or her own curriculum. New solutions are created and projects developed out of passions. Creative arts are used for trauma healing and the youth discusses and works together on building prototypes, testing ideas and turning challenges into opportunities. Clean drinking water for example is lacking in the camp. A team in OPPORTUNIGEE started the production of affordable bio-sand water filters, which is having a big health impact and generating income.