Sand, a school, and solidarity

Driven by solidarity with the Sahrawi refugees, young activist Eman Farrugia organised a fundraising effort to help build a school in the Sahara desert.

A new school for refugees is under construction in the Algerian Desert, and a surprising feature is a message painted on the bricks, expressing gratitude to the Maltese people.

A new school for refugees is being built in the Sahara desert.

Algeria has been a sanctuary for Sahrawi refugees for the past five decades. The Sahrawis fled war in Western Sahara during the conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front, between 1975 and 1991. The Polisario Front is a group advocating for the independence of Western Sahara, a territory with disputed sovereignty. (Read more here)

Around 175,000 Sahrawi refugees reside in five camps near Tindouf, Western Algeria. These camps exist in a harsh desert environment, characterised by scorching temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius, scarce rainfall, and frequent sandstorms.  These conditions restrict livelihood and economic opportunities, making the refugees reliant on humanitarian aid.

Driven by solidarity with the Sahrawi people, young activist Eman Farrugia organised a fundraising effort among his Junior College peers. “The money raised went directly to ‘Cocina por el Cambio’ (‘Cooking for Change’), a Spanish non-profit dedicated to aiding the Sahrawis,” Farrugia explained to The Journal. “Their project is a unique cookery school for refugee children. Not only will it provide formal education, but the facility will also serve meals to the wider refugee population in the camps.” He called on all those who would like to give a helping hand to make their donations via this link.

Eman Farrugia.

‘Cocina por el Cambio’ brings together a powerful team of culinary professionals, development cooperation specialists, and health and nutrition experts.  Their mission is to empower Sahrawi refugees in the Sahara desert, a population with limited control over their future, through a unique development project that combines skills training, job creation, and tools to combat malnutrition.

The NGO also aims to equip young Sahrawi women with the skills to break the cycle of poverty.  It offers training beyond basic schooling, empowering women to enter the workforce.  This initiative combats dependence on aid by creating new jobs.  Their strategy involves a special school canteen where 20 women receive annual training and work experience.  Four of these graduates will then become trainers themselves, ensuring the project’s sustainability and self-management within five years.

Tindouf camps, Algeria.

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