The four winners of the annual Ockenden International Prizes for refugee projects were COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA), Uganda, Geutanyoë Foundation, Malaysia, the Somaliland Youth Development and Voluntary Organization (SOYDAVO) from the Autonomous Region of Somalia and Unite Lebanon Youth Project (ULYP), Lebanon.

Each winner receives GBP25,000, rewarding – and recognizing – innovative work that has promoted self-reliance among refugees and/or internally displaced people (IDPs) – the hallmark of Ockenden International since its inception in 1951.

More than 100 projects were entered from 44 countries and territories with the four winning projects coming from Uganda, Malaysia, Lebanon and the Autonomous Region of Somalia.

The winners and their projects:

The youth education and empowerment project from COBURWAS, Uganda project ‘Unlocking Girls’ and Boys’ Potential in Conflict-Affected Areas’ was nominated by the Washington-based Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), which helps to fund and promote the work of CIYOTA. The judges said: it earned a prize because it recognises the value of education for refugees in Uganda where qualifications generate real and lasting opportunities. The schooling, under pressure in a challenging environment also plays an important role in normalising – while transforming – lives in a huge and challenging refugee ‘settlement’.

In Malaysia, the Geutanyoë Foundation is focused on increasing access to basic services for refugees, especially health and education. Its ‘Homeschooling literacy project for Rohingya women and girls’, launched in December 2017, caught the judges’ attention for its highly practical – and imaginative – home education programmes for Rohingya women refugees who are taught by Rohingya women refugees. The judges said it is innovative in design and implementation while noting its success in ‘empowering’ its beneficiaries.

SOYDAVO, Somaliland, is a non-profit NGO working to establish some social order in one of the most fragile societies on the planet with its ‘Livelihoods, Returnees and Reintegration for Somali Returnees and Migrants from Yemen’ project. Launched in November 2016, the judges said  it has been recognised for operating in an extremely challenging environment to successfully establish a three-year integration plan that has benefitted 130 new businesses with practical and rigorous training support and start-up funding. It also stood out for its strong focus on self-sufficiency by providing financial and training support for entrepreneurs and reducing hostility to the returnees from war-torn neighbour Yemen.

The CHANGE project from Unite Lebanon Youth aids marginalized Palestinian refugees by providing access to higher education, allowing young people with the potential to develop in extreme circumstances. The judges said it won for its self-evident success rate educating isolated Palestinian and Syrian refugees, which will create a lasting legacy. The judges also felt that CHANGE provides life skills, is transformative and should be a model project that can and should inspire other organisations with similar objectives.

The 2019 judges were:
  • Michael Buerk, Broadcaster (chair)
  • Dr. Georgia Cole, the Margaret Anstee Research Fellow at the Margaret Anstee Centre for Global Studies, Newnham College, University of Cambridge
  • Dame Frances Lannon, former Principal and Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford
  • Solomon Mugera, BBC Africa Editor
  • Mike Wooldridge, OBE
  • Dr. Avila Kilmurray, Trustee, Conciliation Resources and consultant with The Social Change Initiative
Ockenden International trustee Mr James Beale advised.
The 2019 runners-up were:

Find A Better Way, Jordan – peer-to-peer training and support for disabled Syrian refugees

Five One Labs, Iraqi Kurdistan – business start-up support

Fundación Casa Alianza México, Mexico – child migrant safety

Hand in Hand for Aid and Development (HIFAD), UK – midwifery training in Idlib, Syria

HealthRight International, USA – unaccompanied migrant children’s protection and health, New York

Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Israel, – for stopping the deportation of refugees from Israel

Samos Volunteers, Greece – multiple self-help projects supporting the psychosocial health of refugees waiting for their asylum applications to be processed

The four cash prizes recognize and reward innovative work that delivers evidential self-reliance to refugees and/or IDPs, the hallmark of Ockenden International since its inception in 1951.

The four annual prizes are open to projects or programmes focused on IDP/refugee self-reliance anywhere in the world.