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Team No Sleep Dreams of a Successful Future

Like so many of the people that he works to help as the Director of Team No Sleep, a Community Based Organization (CBO) in Kenya, William Tumusiime was forced to flee his home out of fear for his life. Had he stayed in Uganda, he would have likely been sentenced to life in prison for being a member of the LGBTIQ community or been the victim of harassment and assault by fellow citizens because of his identity. When William arrived in Kenya, he met others who, like him, had been forced from their homes and decided to seek a safer path.

“We started helping other people who are also having the same problem. Going from their countries because of their sexuality.”

Together they founded Team No Sleep a CBO focused on providing a safe house for LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers, offering mental health support, help and information on living with HIV, and promoting social justice initiatives. To undertake these programs, as well as give members of Team No Sleep economic independence, they decided to create livelihood projects that would sustain the people in their safe house. However, while they were able to identify poultry farming as a potentially life changing enterprise—and even begin a chicken farm—they did not have the training or resources to grow their business.

Team No Sleep first learned about ORAM when its Executive Director, Steve Roth, traveled to Kenya in 2019. “He came to our safe house. We were lucky. He supported us, when he came, he bought some feed for our chickens. And we also got to know more about ORAM through the Refugee Coalition of East Africa (RefCEA).”

When ORAM offered the opportunity for LGBTIQ refugee-led CBOs to take part in training and apply for seed funding for their poultry livelihood businesses last year, Team No Sleep jumped at the opportunity. “We were fortunate RefCEA and ORAM were able to put together the training. One of our project managers for the poultry farm was very excited to actually get formal training. The training meant we were educated in things like, the proper ways to vaccinate chickens and build the infrastructure to house the birds.” That training was critical in knowing how to care for non-indigenous breeds of chickens, as well for far more unpredictable challenges, such as disease and varying seasonal temperature changes. “The weather has thrown a few curveballs where we don't know what to expect but at least the training has helped us anticipate that this is likely to happen.”

Team No Sleep was also successful in applying for a grant that would allow them to grow their poultry enterprise to the hundreds of chicks they have today. As Craig, another member of Team No Sleep explained, “ORAM providing seed funding for small LGBTIQ refugee livelihood projects was really helpful support. We managed to get more chickens, get feeds, vaccines, antibiotics, and so much else for the project. We have a safe house where we host vulnerable refugees, and this poultry project has been really, really helpful. We've managed to buy food for the house, buy medication for people staying in the house, provide emergency transport for those who have appointments at UNHCR and other organizations, and support other projects.”

This revenue stream became a particularly important lifeline during the Covid-19 pandemic. “This has been an income generating opportunity that has been constant. We have relationships with a lot of people in the larger Kenyan community and we have a market where they actually call us asking ‘hey do you guys do have a certain breed of chicken and stuff like that.’” But while their poultry livelihood project has increased their resilience, the pandemic illustrated how important it is to continue to expand its reach. As William explains “members can't work. People are being evicted from houses, they can't even afford a meal. We are trying to help, but we can't reach everyone…but with the livelihood project at least we can help support other people.” It is only by growing their poultry farm through their business savvy, the support of additional training, and funding to improve infrastructure, will Team No Sleep be able to reach their goal of providing a safe harbor and new start for some of the most vulnerable members of their community.

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