2021 Refugee Project Prize Winners

The four winners of the ninth annual Ockenden International Prizes for refugee and/or displaced people projects were Israel’s ARTEAM, Sweden’s Dream Orchestra Ideell Förening, Greece’s Velos Youth and The Ara Trust of India.

Each of their winning projects received GBP25,000, rewarding – and recognising – innovative work that has promoted self-reliance among refugees and displaced people – the hallmark of Ockenden International since its inception in 1951.

Entries from 43 countries were represented in 2021’s record 146 submissions with the four winning projects coming from Israel, Sweden, Greece and India.

The winners and their projects:

ARTEAM (The Garden Library), Israel The 2021 judging panel was impressed by the project’s “clarity of purpose, the number of its teachers who are refugees and who share the same challenges and particular circumstances in southern Tel Aviv.” It was also singled out for its “genuine inclusiveness”, which the judging panel said is “based on policies of direct input and self-reliance, self-sustained in a challenging environment for refugees and asylum-seekers from Eritrea.” The number of women directly involved and the project’s ability to self-finance were also noted by the judging panel.

Dream Orchestra Ideell Förening, Sweden All eight judges were captivated by the charm of the Göteborg, Gävle, Alingsås-based orchestra project’s unique and imaginative leadership project that empowers young refugees by learning a musical instrument – to orchestra level standards – building the disciplines required for employment with the social skills necessary for integration while making them part of a community, essential building blocks to self-reliance. The judges said “the orchestra’s beautiful music underscores the project’s importance in elevating confidence and self-esteem – individually and collectively.”

Velos Youth, Greece The Velos Youth Centre project in Athens was chosen for providing a safe space and holistic support for a specific demographic: displaced, unaccompanied people, mostly men, aged 16-21. The judges were impressed that the Centre is run by refugees for refugees and is funded collectively. They liked the Centre’s focus on young men “vulnerable in this age group to many malign influences. The assistance and support provided are an exceptional example of constructive ways to support young people in making self-reliant lives” the judges said.

The Ara Trust, India Nominated by the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights, The Ara Trust, India’s Migration & Asylum Project (M.A.P.), based in New Delhi, won the judges’ attention for being led and staffed predominantly by women – in a male-dominated legislative and legal environment – women who they agreed are “effecting real change and evidence of it for the stateless through strategic acumen, development of a network of paralegals, a clear rights approach, strategic litigation cases, digital stories by refugees in advocacy and publication of a ‘know your rights’ booklet along with access to its services via social media. The Ara Trust has also successfully amplified the need for political and social change” the judges added.

The other six finalists and their innovative projects were:

Breaking Barriers’ BB Employment, a UK-based employment resource operational in London and surrounding counties, Misión Scalabriniana for its project assisting Venezuelan and Colombian refugees with Savings and Internal Lending Groups in 12 provinces of Ecuador, Multi-Aid Programs (MAPs), for its award-winning tech project, Robogee, established in Bekaa, Lebanon, Solar Freeze for its eponymously-named eco-friendly refrigeration project based in the Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, Citizens UK for Sponsor Refugees, a community-based resettlement scheme in the UK and Opportunity International UK (OIUK) for its Refugee Innovation, Self-Reliance and Empowerment (RISE) programme, operational in the Nakivale and Kiryandongo settlements in Uganda.

The 2021 finalist programmes included: a community-based education initiative for migrant and asylum-seekers in South Tel Aviv, Israel, aimed at equipping its members to better self-advocate for their rights; comprehensive employment support and job matching for refugees in Greater London and surrounding counties, UK; leadership training for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers through peer-teaching in the orchestra in Göteborg, Gävle and Alingsås, Sweden; self-managed savings clusters for people without access to formal financial services in eight of Ecuador’s 24 provinces; a prize-winning robotics team called Team Hope, established as part of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM-based) training course for Syrian refugees in Bekaa, Lebanon; distribution of locally-developed  financial products, services and training programs for the 20,000 refugee households in west central Uganda’s Nakivale and Kiryandongo settlements; training for distribution and maintenance of portable solar-powered refrigeration in the Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya; India’s first and only refugee law centre, which has brought about changed management processes for asylum-seekers in New Delhi; support for community-sponsored refugee resettlement to the UK; and a safe space for unaccompanied youths in Athens, Greece.

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

The 2021 Prizes were determined by Ockenden International’s eight-member Advisory Panel:

  • Michael Buerk, Broadcaster
  • Dr Dawn Chatty, Emerita Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration, former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, 2011-2014
  • Dr Georgia Cole, Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and Director of Studies for Geography at Newnham College, University of Cambridge. Former Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow, Refugee Studies Centre/LMH, Oxford.
  • Dr Dilar Dirik, the Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, a post held in conjunction with the Refugee Studies Centre
  • Dr Avila Kilmurray, Trustee, Conciliation Resources and consultant with The Social Change Initiative
  • Dame Frances Lannon, former Principal and Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford
  • Dr Alice Nah, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York
  • Mike Wooldridge, OBE, former BBC Foreign Correspondent
The annual three-month window for entries in the Ockenden International Prizes closed on 30th November 2020.

Prizes awarded since their launch in 2012 total GBP775,000, which has been shared by 29 projects in 19 countries and regions. The prize money promotes best practice and enables our winners to develop their winning projects to improve the lives of those facing some of the most challenging global issues of the day.

Submissions for the GBP25,000 prizes are sought from non-profit organisations, which can enter their own projects or alternatively nominate projects managed by non-profit partners or affiliated organisations. Projects can be led by – or have a high level of participation from – the project beneficiaries themselves.

Prizes are awarded to projects that promote self-reliance among refugees and/or displaced people. ‘Self-reliance’ is understood broadly and may be furthered by projects promoting education, providing legal assistance, or developing life skills and by any other programmes that help displaced people build stable, independent lives.

The judging panel always looks for highly effective projects that have led to real change in people’s lives, with measurable evidence of outcomes, as explained in the Entry Rules and Judging Criteria.

The Ockenden International Prizes remain focused on identifying solutions to the challenges faced by displaced people, raising awareness of their needs, and rewarding outstanding projects.

The three-month call for entries in the 2022 Prizes began on September 1, 2021.