What We Do

RET International is committed to working in emergencies and fragile environments around the world to ensure the protection and resilience of vulnerable young people through education.

Our Global MissionAt the heart of RET’s mission is the protection and resilience of young people.

RET works in areas of conflict, crisis and instability around the world, from the Middle East to Afghanistan and Asia, throughout Africa and all the way to Latin America & the Caribbean. As a humanitarian organisation the primary service we provide is protection, but what sets us apart is the population we focus on, young people, and the primary tool we use, education.


We are therefore committed to assist communities meet the educational needs, in the broadest sense, of young people made vulnerable by displacement, violence, armed conflict and disasters and have been doing so for the past 15 years. Among young people, RET has grown especially concerned with the plight of young women, who have become one of our key beneficiary populations in all contexts.

RET was founded in 2000 by Mrs Sadako Ogata, as she was ending her second term as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (UNHCR) and Mrs Françoise Demole, at the time Vice-Chair of the “Fondation pour Genève”, long-time supporter of UNHCR and Board Member of numerous charitable organisations.

Mrs Ogata’s vision for RET was to bridge a massive gap she had witnessed during her tenure as the head of the UN Refugee Agency: education for youth.

During crises, donor priorities were always for life-saving basic needs as food, water, shelter and child protection. Budgets rarely stretched far enough to reach the needs of young people.

This had tragic consequences as crises tend to be evermore protracted, often lasting for years or even decades. In 2015, the average time in exile was of 17 years. If adolescents and youth are not given any educational opportunities they will become extremely vulnerable to illegal activities, gangs, underage labour, drug trafficking, sexual abuse, sex trafficking, violence and more. Education is what provides them with the skills to confront these threats and develop their resilience. Education is a truly efficient and sustainable protection mechanism in these fragile environments.

At inception, RET acted exclusively in refugee camps. However, as refugee migration patterns changed and new crises emerged, the paradigm shifted in different parts of the world and the methods we had developed specifically for refugee camps, proved to be adaptable to young people in fragile environments in general. Today we still work in refugee camps, but the majority of our work is with urban, peri-urban and rural refugees, with host communities, with internally displaced populations, with adolescent soldiers, with victims of natural disasters and more.

RET_Burundi_2015

 

What RET offers is therefore Relief & Resilience through Education in Transition.

RET_International_Acronym

Relief from the threats of fragile environments and Resilience to be able to transform harmful situations into positive and constructive resources and durably overcome future risks

Education as the tool for individual protection and development

Transition out of crisis and towards more stable and peaceful communities, by considering young people as part of the solution

 

Mrs Ogata’s understanding of the role of youth education has had a great impact, because it is adaptable to a much broader set of circumstances and needs than originally envisioned. Education is the foundation upon which great things can be built. This capacity to be scaled up is a characteristic of any great vision and is the reason why it is so enduring.

In the following two sections of this page you will find a more detailed account of our mandate. More specifically, we think that it is important to explain why our mandate is uniquely relevant and how we are equipped to implement it.

  • Bridging the Gaps between Humanitarian Action & DevelopmentClear Solutions to a Complex Problem

  • Youth As Key Actors of Positive ChangeYouth are positive actors during a crisis, while also representing the future of their communities.

  • Education As a Tool for Protection & DevelopmentRET provides education in emergencies; we protect while paving the way towards social cohesion, resilience, peace and prosperity.

Why Our Mission MattersThrough its unique mandate RET bridges the gaps between humanitarian action and development.

International assistance is traditionally separated into humanitarian relief and development cooperation. Humanitarian organisations offer short-term protection during emergencies (saving lives and alleviating suffering), while development organisations work in stabilised environments to improve long-term social and economic wellbeing. At RET, we believe our mandate centred on young people, which employs education as a tool for protection, allows us to propose relevant solutions to bridge the gaps between humanitarian relief and development aid.


Bridge

 

Crises rarely have clearly defined end dates when humanitarian actors can leave and development work begins. Crises may last for years or even decades and the transition period between crisis and development is often impossible to define, contingent upon politics between different international actors, and thus extremely difficult to address.

For a transition from crisis to stable societies to occur, the main actors and tools need to be similar in both contexts. This is ultimately what bridges the gaps in knowhow and methods between these two different types of aid provided by the international community, governments or local communities.

This is what our mandate sets out to do.

RET works specifically with young people, and this is crucial. Young people are already potential actors during a crisis, while also representing the future of their communities. They have important roles in both the present and the future, which is less the case of other demographic groups such as children and the elderly.

The second specificity of RET’s mandate is to use the tool of education to protect during crises and emergencies. By using education at an early stage during the crisis, RET not only protects, but also lays the foundations for the educational interventions of the future. This is key as education is universally recognised as one of the most important long-term development tools. At RET we use education to protect and build the resilience of communities, which leads to the necessary conditions for development policies to take hold.

RET therefore works with the key cohort among the populations at risk (young people) and employs the right lifesaving tool (education) to propose efficient strategies to bridge the gaps between humanitarian relief and development aid. This makes our mandate not only unique, but essential and lifesaving.

RET_in_Burundi_Panarama

  • Education in the Broadest SenseWhen we think of education, our horizon should not be limited to formal classroom education.

  • A Complete Educational ToolboxThrough over 15 years of experience in education in emergencies, we have developed a complete toolbox of approaches.

  • Interventions that Accompany Communities out of CrisesWe respond to immediate life-saving needs, while also providing young people and their communities with the skills to move out of emergencies and towards development.

How We Do ItOver 15 Years of Experience in Education in Emergencies

Our core competencies in the spectrum of education is built on interventions ranging from the strengthening of formal and non-formal education to basic literacy and numeracy, tertiary education, psychosocial support, human rights, refugee rights, children’s rights, women’s rights and more.


In stable contexts, formal education is usually the main pillar of education and is what we instinctively think of as education. However, in emergencies, the formal education system is often dysfunctional or completely non-existent creating the need for a wide range of approaches to respond to the specific and acute needs of young people.

RET’s first step is always to conduct a needs & assets assessment survey (NAAS), in order to have a clear picture of what we will need to deploy in each specific crisis. For these surveys to be meaningful, we spend a lot of time listening closely to the key stakeholders on the ground and in the donor community. Project creation is a strongly participatory process.

From its 15 years of experience RET has derived a complete toolbox of educational approaches aimed at protecting vulnerable young people, and young women in particular. In reality classification is obviously more complex, but these approaches may generally be presented in three main groups:

Approaches helping young people cope with emergencies;

Approaches maintaining access to quality school environments;

Approaches allowing youth to lead their communities towards stability and development;

RET has also developed special attention to the socio-economic empowerment of young women, an issue that is mainstreamed throughout all our approaches.

 

Coping with Emergencies

In fragile environments, young people need to develop their resilience. RET therefore has built up an expertise in providing psychosocial support and life skills during crises and emergencies.

 

Psychosocial Support

Psychosocial support helps learners cope with the traumas they have lived through. If the psychological state of young people is not addressed either through individual therapy or group support, it will be extremely difficult for them to overcome the risks inherent to fragile environments and develop the necessary skills to protect themselves.

 

Life Skills

Life skills are abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable young people to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. For RET this has often meant providing trainings with basic life-saving information in fields such as health, landmine awareness or prevention of gender-based violence.

 

Around the School

The presence of schools and classroom environments has always been an essential and stabilising force within communities. RET has therefore developed a holistic approach to make sure schools are present and play their protective role for vulnerable young people during crises. This includes the provision of formal education, non-formal education and the capacity building of local educational assets.

 

Formal Education

RET provides formal education by running schools based on official national curricula or by facilitating the access to recognised or state-run schools. There is equally often a need for accelerated learning programmes for young people who are over-aged for their level as a result of their flight and exile. RET also manages scholarship programmes for tertiary education.

 

Non-formal Education

The non-formal education provided by RET offers basic skills such as literacy and numeracy, catch-up courses to enable young people to re-integrate into local school systems, as well as, language courses. For those who have been displaced, mastering the local language is key to integrating local educational systems and communities. Even if these courses are not part of the official national curriculum, RET always makes sure they meet standards of institutions such as the INEE or UNESCO and make the extra effort to have them recognised by local authorities.

 

Capacity Building

Building the capacity of local educational assets in fragile environments is an indirect, but extremely efficient way of ensuring the presence of meaningful educational opportunities for vulnerable youth, while also strengthening the educational environments for the children and youth of the host community. This implies improving local school administration, engaging in teacher training and professional development, mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in educational programmes as well as the construction, renovation and provision of equipment in order to create safe and learner-friendly environments.

 

Towards Stability and Development

Helping young people cope with everyday life and have access to meaningful educational opportunities will only develop its full impact if completed by livelihoods and youth empowerment trainings.

 

Livelihoods & Employability

Skills that will enable young people to attain self-reliance are what will ultimately provide them with a more secure and stable situation during crises. In certain contexts, where jobs may be available, RET will provide vocational courses in trades or support apprenticeship schemes matching young people with existing local businesses. RET’s entrepreneurship training enables young people who may have developed a small business to make it prosper. For those who are starting from scratch, our small business training courses help them create a small enterprise through collective strategies. Finally, technical training is used to move young people with a secondary education further along the path to employability, by providing them with concrete marketable skills like computer literacy or administration.

 

Youth Empowerment

Ultimately, RET aims to build a world in which the actions of empowered young people lead their communities out of crisis and towards stronger social cohesion, peace and prosperity. To help young people become such actors of positive social change, RET has developed a series of educational training courses focused on responsible citizenship, youth-adult partnerships or awareness of rights – children’s rights, women’s rights, refugee rights. These all provide young people with the keys to participate in their community’s affairs. Leadership training is also essential for young people to be capable of creating youth-led community assets-based projects or successfully administer grassroots youth groups and associations.

 

Socio-economic Empowerment of Women

RET’s programmes are concerned by young people in general. However, we do believe that by working consistently with vulnerable young women and mothers, our programmes not only respond to pressing needs, but have a greater impact and effectiveness. Young women and mothers are amongst the most vulnerable in crises, but are also often heads of households and play essential roles in the lives of children, youth and the family unit as a whole.

A person’s gender still greatly affects their opportunities and achievements. The social, economic and cultural development of societies has created different gender roles, which are in most cases advantageous to men and detrimental to women. This gap widens in fragile contexts, as evidence shows that masculinities and femininities are heightened during a crisis. Also, when general violence in communities rises there is a noted increase in gender-based violence. The use of rape as a weapon or forced early marriages are among the most notorious examples.

Therefore, focussing on young women, adolescent mothers, women heads of households, young widows is vital in the perspective of addressing the most pressing needs. However, the logic for focussing on women goes beyond this question of vulnerability; it is also an issue of impact and effectiveness. Targeting young women has far reaching positive impacts as they are very often at the heart of the family, influence children’s education, play important roles in health, nutrition as well as household management and income. The more education a woman has, the better the opportunities for the children and the families as a whole. The return on investment of working to protect young women through education is therefore extremely high.

Youth with Special Needs

During emergencies, inequalities linked to disability are exacerbated, as normal support systems such as family ties, specific infrastructure, social services or transportation networks collapse. The inclusive approach to education that RET follows means that affirmative actions have to be taken to ensure that all members of society have access to their universal right to education.

Special attention to young people with disabilities is therefore a question of addressing specifically acute needs in order to guarantee all young peoples’ rights. However, as in the case of focussing on young women, working with youth with disabilities also serves a broader purpose. The way communities treat the most vulnerable influences how they view solidarity and social cohesion as a whole. Developing the potential of youth with special needs allows them to play strong roles in raising the awareness of their communities on the intrinsic value of all its members.

RET address the needs of youth with special needs on multiple levels. First, we mainstream the issue of access to educational facilities and opportunities to youth with special needs in all our programmes around the world. In specific contexts, we have developed methods to train governmental institutions in charge of integrating youth with special needs within the formal education system’s response to natural disasters. Our work then extends to the educational institutions themselves, training teachers to understand the needs and special vulnerabilities of their students with disabilities and integrate them in the school’s contingency plans. Finally, RET works with the youth themselves, raising their awareness of their roles and responsibilities in case of emergencies, allowing them to become positive actors of the school’s overall safety.