Roland Kalamo: Activist and Advocate


This year I started volunteering for the South Australian Red Cross as a Restoring Family Link Officer for the Limestone Coast region. I noticed a communication gap within the refugee settlement program. I moved forward, as a former refugee, to advocate and find solutions. I approached the former regional manager of Red Cross, Mr. Greg Baxendale, to create a program to help current and new refugees to learn useful English that will help them integrate and find pathways to employment and to understand how to manage their everyday life – for example, how to pay bills and manage their bank accounts.

Freelancer Journalist/Filmmaker, Human Rights activist, and Social Justice Advocate Roland Kalamo Photo: Antoine Tardy, 2018

These skills might seem unimportant for most of us but they are crucial for refugees who have been living in refugee camps for more than a decade where they had no bank accounts, and where, instead, they fully understood how the camp system works.

Mr. Baxendale offered his full support and we started to analyse and understand what other NGOs are doing to support refugees. As a result of the analysis, the regional head office offered full support to create a pilot conversational English Program and also offered to distribute donated blankets and clothes to families in need. So far more than 20 families have received clothes and blankets. I then found teaching material from potential partners for the English Program.

I wrote to Jesuit World Learning (JWL) and Solidarity and Advocacy With Vulnerable Individuals In Crisis (SAVIC) and they supplied us with books.
The conversational English pilot program started when Mr. Baxendale was leaving Red Cross to retire. The new regional manager, Mr. David Wallshow, has been very supportive and with him we signed an MOU with JWL to officially use their teaching materials from Cambridge University. Mid-December 2018, we reached the end of the 6-week pilot project. We were happy to receive positive feedback from our participants, who fully enjoyed the program.

Most of the things I am participating in are because I have been empowered by JWL and the University of Geneva – InZone, for whom I worked as a Field Coordinator. Special thanks to the Jesuit Refugee Service that opened its doors and gave me the first opportunity to apply for a scholarship when I had no documents that attested to my education history.

Thanks to Oxford University, where I was trained in qualitative and quantitative research and where I also worked as assistant researcher and photographer for the Good Neighbours Kenya Project. Other special thanks go to all the refugees around the world whose stories don’t make the headlines but who are working to make this world a better place. I hope everyone can see how important it is to empower refugees by providing them with quality higher education and giving them opportunities to address, work with, and find solutions to their problems.