What is FilmAid?

A while back, a friend, who has been seeing me in beautifully made T-shirts branded 'FilmAid' asked me, "Yvon, what exactly is FilmAid? I mean apart from some wiki wisdom over the internet, the here-say of the regular folks here at Kakuma and the fact that its an NGO... What is FilmAid all about?" 

FilmAid International in Kakuma, a Story

Almost a year ago, I was doing an interview to be one of FilmAid's Outreach Facilitators. Save for the nerves for a first time job interviewee, this very same question bugged me. I had been to several of FilmAid's evening screenings. In my opinion, FilmAid brought something spectacular to the refugees in Kakuma 1. They brought a movie, something our fellow brethren in the cities pay for, to the neighbourhood for free! Seeing this, it had an effect on me, how people came together to watch a movie and left fulfilled, soothed, smiling, in small groups discussing what they had just seen and having learnt something new. The hullabaloo that usually follows after an evening screening (or an E.S., as I learned to call it later) lets you in on the kind of thoughts the films bring to the community members.

After the excitement of joining the FilmAid fraternity, it was down to work. Now to understand exactly it is that we do. Orientation began immediately.

FilmAid has a practical way of addressing issues affecting people, for example hygiene, nutrition, and prevention of disease. Founded in 1999, FilmAid is a development and humanitarian communications organisation which uses the power of film to promote health, strengthen communities and enrich lives of the world’s vulnerable and uprooted people.

Why I joined FilmAid

John Keating, from the movie Dead Poets Society, said “No matter what anyone tells you, ideas can change the world.” FilmAid creates a platform where people can come together and receive life-saving information on public health and safety issues. To use the words of the former Executive Director, Liz Manne, "In a real crisis, information is vital. There are NGOs who provide food, medicine and shelter- but without knowledge of how to access these services, many people miss out. FilmAid's role is to work with other agencies to provide reliable information to the community".

Films transcend language and literacy issues. Films speak to generations and can reach a lot of people. Perhaps that is the reason film is used here.

FilmAid plays another major role, which is of great need to refugees who have fled for reasons including insecurity and political persecution. These people have been through a lot. A little laughter goes a long way. Films give creedance to laughter being the best medicine.

In Kakuma, last year, two communities happened to be in conflict. Compelled by a sense of responsibility, an outreach facilitator bravely suggested that FilmAid take an Evening Screening to the area where the conflicting communities lived. Why brave? Its not wise to attract a crowd where there is a threat of security. With the help of local security officers who supported the idea, the evening screening was successful, and both communities attended wanting to see what FilmAid had brought for them. After a shared learning experience and occasional laughter, both communities had begun the road to peace.

FilmAid aims for social change by providing a platform for information and opportunities for people to come together to debate and explore ideas. The case of the two communities is a fine example for social change and peace.

Yvon Ngabo is Communications Intern for FilmAid Kenya.