Success in Kakuma: Another Report from Kenya

This blog entry has been reposted from Mountain FilmStash Wislocki, the producer of Mountainfilm in Telluride, is in Kenya right now with FilmAid. This is his second installment from his experience. ( Read his first report from Kakuma Refugee Camp.)

We left Kakuma Refugee Camp this morning after an intense two weeks of helping the FilmAid students and staff produce the 2012 FilmAid Kakuma Film Festival. By all accounts, it was a success.

At night, we moved about, screening films in the different camps. The students worked hard, and it paid off with fantastic shows and great attendance. Everyone loved the student films. These screenings left me impressed by the powerful impact of FilmAid's work.

As I leave Kakuma, I realize that the refugees, especially the students, have taught me far more than I taught them. The takeaway lesson from this trip is that if these people can be optimistic in this place, then I have no reason to ever be pessimistic. Conditions here are always dusty and insanely hot, and the refugees live on scant food rations. Everyone at Kakuma is here because of extreme circumstances: I’ve met children whose parents were killed in war, kids who were soldiers and people fleeing famine. Despite being pushed to the brink, the FilmAidand students are cheerful and sweet. Most of them cling to the hope that someday they will get relocated to America.

Yes, the American dream hasn’t lost its lure, and it’s actually refreshing to feel proud to be an American. Our taxpayer dollars are hard at work here. Funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health and Human Services are being well used. Workers from the U.N. and the States say that the U.S. takes more refugees from here than any other country (and could take even more if they could cut through the U.N. red tape).

With a heavy heart, I said goodbye to all of my new friends at Kakuma and am now in in Nairobi, working at the FilmAid office and, hopefully, headed soon to the Kibera slum.

Here’s a recent video made by the Kakuma FilmAid refugee students and another the students helped make a few months ago. They rock. We will upload films from the festival when we get a faster Internet connection.