August 6, 2018 — Last month, 61 refugees in Kenya and Malawi earned diplomas from Regis University through the Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) program.
Father John P. Fitzgibbons, SJ, president of Regis University in Denver, and Father Daniel Hendrickson, SJ, president of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, handed out diplomas at JWL graduation ceremonies at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya on July 16 and the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi on July 20.
“Many of us think the refugees are the poorest of the poor and most marginalized. Those in the refugee camps, while they are poor, are often the business-oriented ones. They’re very resourceful. They’re very bright. In this program, they feel like the world is finally investing in them,” said Fr. Fitzgibbons.
Founded in 2010, JWL provides university-level coursework for refugees in 11 countries. The program offers refugees the opportunity to earn a diploma in liberal studies. Typically completed in three years, the 45 credit-hour diploma includes 30 core credits in liberal studies and 15 credits in one of three specialties: social work, education or business. Many of the graduates use their education to start businesses or lead community-based organizations within their camp, and credits they earn can be applied toward bachelor's degree programs at U.S. institutions.
Regis University president Fr. John P. Fitzgibbons, SJ, with a graduate of the Jesuit Worldwide Learning program.
More than 180 instructors from 20 U.S. Jesuit institutions and 10 international institutions teach the online courses. Worldwide, JWL enrolls more than 350 students each semester and at least half the students are women. In its 8th year of operation, the program has expanded to 20 learning centers in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the United States.
People of Kakuma. . Pascal Zigashane doesn’t have time to do much else. The Democratic Republic of Congo native has used his skills from the JWL to become a leader in his community. He’s the executive director of URISE Initiatives Africa. They use technology to teach social entrepreneurship, and he currently works with 30 kids in his life skills program. He manages 21 employees and has 24 more students that he teaches to code. #thisisregis #JesuitEducated #edcolo
“As we’ve found, the refugees are not doing this job to get a job,” said Armando Borja, JWL’s chief operations officer. “They’re doing this to create jobs. They are doing this to help their communities.”
“I found I need to go meet my clients in their various needs to help them,” said Grace Muvunyi, valedictorian for the Kakuma graduating class. “We’ve learned to become professional communication social change agents. We can change the world.”
Kakuma’s 33 graduates were the sixth class to complete the program at the camp. Located in northern Kenya near the South Sudan border, the Kakuma refugee camp counts more than 189,000 refugees from 19 countries.
People of Kakuma. . Innocent Havyarimanra took what he knew in his native Burundi and has transformed it into a thriving business. Innocent is the founder and head chemist of GLAP enterprises, a business inside of the Kakuma Refugee Camp that makes detergent, shampoo and other hygiene products for the rest of the camp. This is the site of where his new business will operate. #thisisregis #JesuitEducated #edcolo
Dzaleka's 28 graduates comprised the largest class to graduate from JWL in that camp’s history. The Dzaleka refugee camp houses more than 34,000 refugees.
“By graduating today, it is a testament of courage, hard work and determination on my part. But my main focus is to become an inspiration to my children and to the other women in my community,” said Joyce Kagai, a Rwandan refugee and JWL graduate at the Dzaleka camp. In addition to running her own business selling snacks and drinks, Kagai is launching an initiative to support young moms called the Teen Mom Association. “A single community, a single teacher, a single cohort or a single woman can change the world,” she said.
“One thing I’ve realized is that this program at Jesuit Worldwide Learning represents the best of Jesuit higher education in the world,” Fr. Hendrickson told the graduates. “Students of Africa know the importance and power of education.”
Photos from the Dzaleka camp:
Photos from the Kakuma camp:
[Sources: The Denver Post, Regis University (Regis University Celebrates Jesuit Worldwide Learning Graduation, Regis University Confers Diplomas at Refugee Camp in Kenya, 50 refugees in Kenya, Malawi will earn Regis University diplomas)]