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Refugee Youth Volunteering Uganda (RYVU)

"Skills Acquisition and Employability Through Volunteering by Displaced Youth in Uganda"

The Refugee Youth Volunteering Uganda (RYVU) is an international collaborative research project aiming to develop new understandings of volunteering that reflect the experiences of refugees in Uganda; build knowledge on the relationships between volunteering and the livelihoods of displaced young people; and investigate how these impact on their skills, employability and the inequalities they experience. The project is funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council/Global Challenges Research Fund and led by Professor Matt Baillie Smith working with Dr Bianca Fadel at Northumbria University, and a team of academics at Loughborough University (UK), Uganda Martyrs University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (Uganda), in collaboration with international and local NGOs and youth refugees themselves.

Uganda is one of the largest hosting countries for populations displaced across borders, home to over 1.5 million refugees, mostly aged under 24 years old. Socioeconomic inequalities often exclude young refugees from formal schooling, opportunities to build their skills and access to sources of secure and reliable income. RYVU research shows high levels of refugee participation in diverse forms of volunteering, a practice increasingly identified with building skills and enhancing employability. However, studies have tended to focus on international volunteers and the ‘gap year’, or volunteering experiences in Europe and North America. Limited research has investigated volunteering by vulnerable groups and individuals, particularly in the global South.

From 2019 to 2022, the RYVU project captured experiences of volunteering in Uganda through a mixedmethod approach, particularly engaging with refugees from the four main nationalities present in the country: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Somalia. This included a large-scale survey and participatory photography (photovoice) with young refugees; an online survey with employers; and interviews and participatory workshops with young and adult refugees, organisations who work with them and government representatives in four sites: Kampala city and the refugee settlements of Bidibidi, Nakivale and Rwamwanja. 

In total, the project involved over 3,800 participants and the team also worked closely with national and international partners, and participants engaged not only in data collection but also in co-analysis during policy-focused workshops. Importantly, the research was supported by local Youth Advisory Boards comprised of young refugees who shared their expertise and provided valuable guidance to the team throughout all project phases.

You can find out more about the research and access publications, a virtual photo-exhibit, policy briefings, interactive downloadable games and more by visiting the project's dedicated project website and Twitter page.


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