2022 Ockenden Prize Winners

The four winners of the tenth annual Ockenden International Prizes for refugee and/or displaced people projects are the International Network for Aid, Relief and Assistance (INARA), the Irida Women’s Center, Justice Centre Hong Kong and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC).

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

Entries from 48 countries were represented in 2022’s record 152 submissions with the four winning projects coming from the USA, Greece, China and the State of Palestine.

The winners and their projects:

INARA (International Network for Aid, Relief and Assistance), Lebanon and Turkey, for the ‘INARA Medical Project’, which impressed the judging panel with its “long-term commitment to children recovering from and/or overcoming horrendous injuries.” The US-based organization is looking after 197 young patients “providing after care aimed at gaining a full and complete life through medical interventions and psychosocial support that fills an important gap, making a real difference to their chances of independence,” the judges said.


Irida Women’s Center, Greece The seven judges said ‘The Irida Protection Project’ hit all the right Prize buttons: “It is a comprehensive project staffed and run by women who had been or were refugees themselves”, they said. The project in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, provides basic protection and legal aid for displaced women from 35 countries “driven by the needs of the women themselves.” The judges noted the project’s flexible, adaptive and egalitarian administration, its organic development in a challenging environment “and successful outcomes that demonstrate how the lived experience can debunk myths about helpless women.”

Justice Centre Hong Kong, China is doing essential work “providing strategic litigation in difficult circumstances,” the judges observed. The Justice Centre Hong Kong has a “clear and concrete focus on legal rights, providing access to legal representation for people from many countries and in many languages”. It has a good self-help app and has wedded psychosocial support initiatives to legal representation. “It is the only local NGO providing legal representation for refugees in Hong Kong,” the judges said.

UAWC (Union of Agricultural Work Committees), was selected for its innovative gardening project ‘Promoting food Sovereignty for Palestinian Refugees Living in Camps through Rooftop Gardening’, which the judges said had proved to be an “effective small scale agricultural project.” The beneficiaries of the project live on land, administered by the UN, with little or no space for agriculture. Any agriculture has had to go vertical with the rooftop gardening and seed project ensuring hard-won self-sufficiency. It was this year’s only finalist focused on ecology and emphasising sustainability instead of financial imperatives. “For people facing evictions and loss of independence this is a project genuinely rooted in community and self-reliance,” the judges added.

The other six finalists and their projects were:

  • Breadwinners, for its employment programmes supporting refugees and selling artisan bread in the UK.
  • For Better Future, Georgia, for its enamel jewellery enterprise ‘Ikorta’ in the Tserovani IDP Settlement.
  • Humana People to People Congo, for projects to improve self-reliance and promote social cohesion and peaceful coexistence among Central African Republic refugees and local Congolese community members in impoverished villages in Libenge and Gemena in the Sud-Ubangi Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Imkaan Welfare Organisation, Pakistan, for its project with stateless children in the informal settlement of Machar Colony in Karachi.
  • Mercy Hands for Humanitarian Aid, Iraq, for projects to support Sustainable Livelihoods & Economic Recovery of IDPs and refugees in Khanaqin District.
  • United Way for its digital training project ‘Joining Forces’, matching refugee volunteers with elderly citizens in the Netherlands and Spain.

With programmes operational in 12 countries and states the finalists’ work is improving the independence of refugees and displaced people across the globe. The four annual cash Prizes – for projects proven to improve refugee self-reliance – recognise the agency, dignity and autonomy of refugees and forced migrants.

The projects by this year’s 10 finalists include programmes for employment opportunities, social cohesion initiatives, jewellery manufacturing and marketing, legal aid and psychosocial support, food sovereignty and digital training – in Spain, China, Pakistan, Georgia, Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey, Greece, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Iraq and the State of Palestine.

Each project is working to help refugees – and/or displaced people – by replacing their need for and dependence on aid with constructive projects the beneficiaries often manage themselves. The 2022 prizes, the tenth since they were inaugurated in 2013, attracted a record 152 entries from 48 countries and states.

The chair of Ockenden International, Judith Ingham said: “Thousands of refugees and displaced people – as well as their communities – are benefitting from the self-reliance and independence these projects promote and expand.

“Ockenden’s prize money will enable the four winners to extend their winning projects, best practices and their reach in what remains sadly one of the most challenging and disruptive global issues of our times.”

Ockenden International, renowned for its work for and with refugees for more than 70 years, launched the 2022 competition on the 1st of September to find and reward the most effective self-reliance projects for refugees and/or displaced people. Prizes given since 2013 now total GBP875,000, which has been shared by 32 projects in 20 countries and regions. Projects can be led by – or have a high level of participation from – the project beneficiaries themselves.

‘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 and forced migrants build stable, independent lives.

The seven-member judging panel was looking 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 deadline for entries was midnight (GMT) on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. The four winners were announced on Wednesday the 30th of March 2022.

This year’s short listed projects were judged by:

  • Michael Buerk (Chair), broadcaster
  • Dr Dawn Chatty, Emerita Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration; former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford and Emeritus Fellow, St Cross College.
  • Dr Georgia Cole, Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. Former Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow, Refugee Studies Centre/LMH, Oxford.
  • Dr Dilar Dirik, Ockenden International Junior Research Fellow, Lady Margaret Hall and Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford.
  • Dr Avila Kilmurray, Board Member of the International Fund for Ireland which is working on peacebuilding and migration programmes with the Social Change Initiative (SCI), an international NGO working to strengthen civil social activism and advocacy in the areas of Human Rights, Migration and Refugee Rights and community-based Peacebuilding.
  • Dame Frances Lannon, former Principal and Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), University of Oxford.
  • Mike Wooldridge, OBE, former BBC Foreign Correspondent.

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 four winning projects of 2021 came from Israel, Sweden, India and Greece:

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.”

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.

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.