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FORGE
History and Background
In 2003, FORGE Founder & Executive Director Kjerstin Erickson spent the summer working in Dukwi Refugee Camp in Botswana. Inspired by the potential of the people who had already chosen peace over war and who had fled across the African continent, Erickson came to see refugees as a neglected solution to many of the issues that plague sub-Saharan Africa. By the end of the summer, she had decided to devote herself to refugee issues.
Soon after, Erickson laid the groundwork for FORGE--an organization that would capture and develop the energy she witnessed to affect change and empower refugees.
When FORGE began, its operational structure was designed to harness the potential of youth as catalysts of social change.
FORGE achieved that goal by recruiting and training teams of college-age volunteers to implement community development projects in collaboration with refugees living in camps in Zambia and Botswana. These committed volunteers partnered with refugees to implement locally-tailored, sustainable projects that were handed over to the leadership of refugees who now comprise members of FORGE’s field staff.
In 2008 onwards, FORGE will launch projects under a new model that will enable it to educate, empower, and enrich the lives of refugees more directly. Instead of recruiting volunteers from the United States to implement projects, FORGE has transferred project facilitation responsibilities to the refugees themselves. FORGE’s in-camp Project Managers now recruit and train refugees to develop projects they identify as relevant and viable within their communities.
FORGE carries out a rigorous application process, looking to find natural leaders who are capable of spearheading new initiatives. First, refugee leaders target the needs of their communities; then, they design projects to meet those needs. FORGE’s new people-powered development model provides refugees with the opportunity to shape their futures and to develop skills instead of remaining dependent on the international aid community to support their needs.
Many of the refugees FORGE works with face the opportunity to repatriate in the very near future, making this new emphasis on community development through refugee leadership all the more urgent to FORGE’s effort to end the cycle of war and engender peace in Africa.
Now in its fifth year, FORGE has served communities of over 70,000 refugees, implemented more than 60 community development projects, and built a full-time staff of more than 150 refugees and international volunteers
 
 
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