Refugee Empowerment Network is non-profit organization building community and self-sufficiency among refugee and asylum seekers in Japan and Kenya through educational, economic, and social programs.
The idea for Refugee Empowerment Network (REN) began in 2001, when REN's founder and chairperson,
Hisako Ishitani, first connected with the community in Kakuma refugee camp in north western Kenya.
Ishitani’s connection came through her son, who was staying in the camp at the time and became aware of the poetry group among the refugees. The members of the group reflected on and shared their experiences of living as refugees through poetry. In 2003, Ishitani translated a collection of poems chosen by her son into Japanese and published Mama-Kakuma. The book is sold in Japan as a way to raise awareness about the refugee situation in Kenya and the proceeds go to support the activities of KANERE a Kakuma-based web journal designed to share new stories from Kakuma with the world. REN continues to translate the KANERE’s articles into Japanese as a way to broaden its audience.
Since 2001, REN has supported refugees in Kenya and has expanded its efforts to serve refugee and asylum seekers living in Japan as well. With the help of its donors, REN hopes to be able to continue to meet the changing needs of refugees around the world.
REN is a member of the following Groups
The Forum for Refugees Japan, an interagency network of non-governmental organizations in Japan working to support the empowerment of refugees through advocacy and facilitating collaborative discussions between service agencies.
Japan Forum for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and NGOs, a collaborative of organizations working in Japan for the protection of refugees and humanitarian assistance.
Japan International Cooperation Agency's Unless Somehow! project.
Meguro International Friendship Association, is a community based organization that supports the integration of foreigners living in Japan.