Refugee Stories

A Refugee Magazine Special Edition: 16 Days of Activism Against GBV

On the 25th of November, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence launched worldwide. Across the globe, there have been numerous acts from millions of people symbolizing their support for this essential cause. The Refugee Magazine is honoring the 16 Days of Activism with this special edition dedicated to the issue of early marriage. 

if levels of child marriages continued at the current rate, 39,000 girls under the age of 18 will be married daily in the coming years - that’s 14.2 million girls a year.
— UNICEF statement released 2013

All these children face serious danger to their physical and mental health as a result of being married at a young age than if they married later in life: girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth; child brides are at a higher level of risk of contracting HIV from their older husbands, and young girls under 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence. 

Containing interviews with victims and survivors of early marriage and GBV and those dedicated to ending it, this edition is a powerful collection of personal stories, facts, and figures that hope to continue the movement to end early marriage and Gender Based Violence worldwide.

To read the full edition of The Refugee Magazine, 16 Days of Activism Special, please click here.

The Refugee Magazine is now in its fifth year, and continues to entertain, inform, and give a voice to those living in the camps. If you'd like to read more then follow our Refugee Magazine Blog Series on our Stories page. 

And as always, if you'd like to support FilmAid's training and empowerment of local writers, filmmakers, producers and actors, you can donate here.

The Refugee Magazine: The Story of My Life, as a Refugee.

The Refugee Magazine is created by, written for and distributed freely to refugees in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. The magazine publishes original content and covers many subjects relevant to its readers such as reportage on key events, poetry and arts, life stories and practical information.

The Refugee Magazine is now in its fifth year, and continues to entertain, inform, and give a voice to those living in the camps. 

This week, in light of the UN announcement of its campaign to combat statelessness, we are sharing the story of Abdiweli Omar Mohamed. His story details his family's struggles with fleeing civil war, encountering drought, becoming stateless, and life in Dagahaley camp, where Abdiweli later received education and journalism training through FilmAid's Media Arts Training program.


'The Story of My Life, as a Refugee' by Abdiweli Omar Mohamed

Featured in The Refugee, Dadaab Edition No. 2, 2014.  

At the beginning of the fall of President Siyad Bare’s regime in 1990, I was still unable to differentiate between war and peace – I was two years old.

I was the second last born in my family, with two elder brothers. When the civil war broke out, people started fleeing towards different parts of the country in fear for their lives, but for my family, we had no other option but to go where my father was – in the bushes with our countless cattle and goats. So my mother arranged for our journey with the help of my elder brothers. They packed all our belongings and mounted them on our donkey carts. Then the journey began, early the following day. In the town, people had cars and lorries, all packed up; while some were walking, with their luggage on their backs.

After moving for six hours, we arrived at a place called Latagari where we rested and eventually spent the night. We resumed our journey the following morning. At the back where we came from we could still hear heavy gunshot sounds but we turned a deaf ear. When we arrived at my father’s place, we were all tired and hungry. Although he had heard the news, he was still unsure about fleeing and leaving the animals behind. We stayed there for four years before a harsh drought hit. All our animals died except two thin cows. My father later decided to slaughter one of the cows to help us survive a few more days.

When we ran out of food and the only cow remaining was all the ‘food’ we had. My father made a decision for us to move in search of good pastures, and we would use the cow for survival during our journey. After an unforgettably long walk for days, we arrived at Dagahaley, which now looks very different. Here, we met some of our relatives, neighbours and many other people we knew back in Somalia.

It took three years for us to be registered as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The three years not being recognized by UNHCR were dreadful. Even though we could access other social amenities such as water and health care, we did not receive food and had to survive on little offerings by the relatives and friends we knew.

After registration, my father
took us to school. We enrolled at Central Primary School in Dagahaley, where pupils were taught under a tree. When they reached class seven, my two elder brothers scarpered and went back to Somalia without notifying my parents or anyone. I was in class five then and was also tempted to drop out of school like my brothers, but my friend Ayub Omar advised me not to, telling me to look into the future and what I wanted in life.

Years later, I sat for the K.C.P.E (Certificate of Primary Education) national exams where I managed to attain 283 marks out of the possible 500. After this I joined Dagahaley Secondary School. Being in form one was a joyous moment for me. Three years later I finished my high school, achieving a decent grade.

Then I saw an opportunity to explore my love for writing through FilmAid’s Journalism Training Program. My trainer, Mr. Paul Odongo, has been helpful in parting skills to help build my future as a journalist, and the sub-editor Mr. Ali Sahal for guidance.

My parents have always accorded me great support and the chance to make my own deci- sions. My brothers are doing well in Somalia; one is married and has children.

Living in the camp is one of the greatest gifts of my life. For in this camp I have lived safely and received education. However, Somalia is my home and I hope to go back some day, but not just yet.


From ‘Lost Boy’ to Filmmaker: Andrew’s Story

Andrew Sanai Pieny arrived at Kakuma Refugee Camp in July 1992. He was one of the 16,000 ‘Lost Boys’ from Sudan who were the first arrivals at the camp—a group of parentless young boys, who had traveled alone in search of refuge from escalating violence in their homeland.  Andrew had been forced to leave his family at age seven to become a child soldier, but he later escaped and found his way to Kakuma. 


After arriving at Kakuma and receiving urgently needed support from NGOs, Andrew joined FilmAid’s Filmmaker Training Program. He had always had an interest in the arts and believed the Filmmaker Training Program offered the creative opportunity he needed. 

Through FilmAid’s training, Andrew became familiar with the fundamental skills of filmmaking, such as scriptwriting, camera work, and editing. FilmAid’s Training Program offered Andrew the technical skills necessary to explore the concerns of his community and to express himself creatively. Completing filmmaker training was only one of many milestones for Andrew.

Having discovered an unwavering passion for film Andrew soon started working as a Filmmaker Training Program (FTP) Facilitator. As a FilmAid facilitator, Andrew worked directly with filmmaker training students during and outside class, sharing his practical knowledge of filmmaking as well as encouraging conversation about films screened through FilmAid's mobile cinema program. Andrew’s involvement in encouraging dialogue was essential to FilmAid’s goals of community engagement and education. These communal discussions allowed refugees at Kakuma to reflect on the films together and consider the movies’ relevance to their own experiences.

It was about changing attitudes and sharing knowledge to guide people. I loved that job.

Andrew continued to seek opportunities to grow as a filmmaker and community leader. He began to work as a production assistant on FilmAid shoots, gaining experience by assisting with the production of informative films for the new arrivals coming into Kakuma. These films are vital in presenting new arrivals with all of the information needed to adjust to new and unfamiliar settings.

Andrew has been able to work with young filmmakers who, like himself, need a creative outlet and a medium through which to express themselves:

It is so great to help them tell their stories. They have so many to tell. People need to learn from these stories.

Andrew has lived in Kakuma camp for over 20 years, having spent the entirety of his adult life as a refugee. He was scheduled to relocate to America in 2001, but his application was canceled shortly after the World Trade Center was attacked. Andrew is grateful for the opportunities that have allowed him to develop his passions and work at Kakuma camp, but he has not given up on his dream to resettle in another country.  

The steady increase in the number of refugees fleeing from Andrew’s home of South Sudan suggests that the work of FilmAid is as valuable as ever. 60,000 more refugees from South Sudan are expected to arrive in Kakuma this year and the UN has warned that the country is on the brink of famine. With your help, FilmAid can continue to bring life saving information to South Sudanese refugees and continue to offer filmmaker training programs for young people like Andrew.

A Reflection on Untold Stories, FilmAid's Film Festival

FilmAid’s 8th Annual Film Festival is underway in Kakuma and Dadaab, it is inspired by this year’s theme, "Untold Stories". FilmAid’s Communications Intern Yvon Ngabo wrote the following reflection.

This is a story of a boy.

He is different.

He is just like everyone else in the eyes of the public.

One reason for this is that he spends every day trying to blend in with everyone else. Partly because being different, having a weird accent, having a different hair texture and having a difficult name is an invitation for trouble. He has to go about his days undetected.

The limelight to him means invasion of privacy. He must avoid this at all costs.

He is part of a forgotten people.

He is a stateless person.

He is a refugee.

He is in a foreign country, with its own rules. He is among a foreign people.

Every individual is faced with his or her own problems. The refugee has the same, and also another set of his own: He has been forced to flee from home with little perception of the new world around him. The childlike outlook, free from flawed perceptions, is shocked to a world where murder and forced relocations are the order of the day.

He has just learned a painful lesson in life.

Your life can be changed forever in a matter of hours by someone who does not even know you.

He has had to bury all these thoughts, deep inside. No matter how hurt he is, no matter how uprooted and unfair his life, the world does not stop to grieve with him. It is rather indifferent. So he must become so too, in order to move on in life.

He has decided to make something of himself. In the life that he has been forced into, he must soldier on.

He has talents.

He has a dream.

He has to give it a shot, if anything is to come from it.

FilmAid’s Film Festival is happening in Nairobi on Tuesday, August 12th at 4:00 p.m. It is a platform to showcase creative talent from Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, including FilmAid-trained young refugee filmmakers eager to show their work. All are welcome to attend. For further information, please visit the FilmAid Film Festival Facebook page.

The Refugee Magazine: 'Is it the right time for home?'

Unique content from The Refugee - a magazine written by those living in refugee camps - will now be showcased on FilmAid's blog.  

The Refugee Magazine seeks to inform, entertain, as well as give a voice to the voiceless.  It was started in 2009 by people living in Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya who had a passion for journalism but with no access to national newspapers.  The group reached out to FilmAid for support on their project, and since then 10 editions of The Refugee newsletter have been published and distributed free of charge among three major refugee camps in the country.  

The magazine addresses popular topics such as culture, gender and business while also aiming to provide useful information about issues frequently faced by those living in the camps, such as repatriation and access to medicine.  

This week we are sharing an abridged article by Mohamed Bashi Mohamed from The Refugee, Dadaab Edition No. 1, 2014.   

'Is it the right time for home?' by Mohamed Bashi Mohamed 

This is the question that has for months now been running through the unsettled minds of refugees living in Dadaab camps in Fafi region, since the Government of Kenya, Federal Somali Government and the UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement to repatriate Somali refugees voluntarily in a span of three years. The move that was initiated by the Kenyan side, after terrorists linked to the terror group, Al-Shabaab,  took control of a shopping mall in a siege that lasted for three days.  Dadaab refugees may feel that though the decision was reached with good intent, the timing however may not be right as there are still some basic structures lacking in Somalia. Moving such a large number of people in a very short time to a place may result in a humanitarian catastrophe. The move may also be a catalyst to chaos and lack of order in the already unstable country.  

The move will have a devastating effect on  women and children. It will also impact with the basic education that majority of refugees. This may create a vacuum in the flow of information and render a good number of able people jobless.

The tripartite agreement by the Kenyan government, the Somali government and the UNHCR on the repatriation of Somali refugees has left many worried. Most notably young refugees who attend school. The agreement came months after Kenyatta University opened up a campus in Dadaab town making Higher Education available to refugees, humanitarian workers and the local community. 

The decision to voluntarily repatriate refugees has been welcomed by some but the majority of refugees are still uncertain about the whole process. It is reported that more than 60,000 refugees have already returned to Somalia.

I spoke to Hassan, a Form One student living in Hagadera refugee camp to find out his feelings towards repatriation. “I am not happy” he says, “My major plan of arrival in this camp was to migrate to either South Africa or Libya so that I enjoy my world but when I reached Dadaab, I realized the value of education”. Hassan's story is one that many can relate to. The question that still lingers in his mind is when he will be repatriated, will he complete his education or will he have to start again upon reaching his homeland?

Mohamed Bashi Mohamed

Full article originally published in The Refugee, Dadaab Edition No. 1, 2014. To read more from this issue of The Refugee click here or visit Facebook.

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.

Voice of a Girl Child

This poem was written by 18yr old Kowsar Asad Warsame, a student of FilmAid's Youth Filmmaker Training Program in Dadaab refugee camp

Voice of a Girl Child

Ssshssh…! Listen
Do you hear that?
That is the voice of a girl child
A child who is a future teacher
A future doctor and a future pilot
If only my dreams are not shattered
I think of myself as a star
With my own passion of light
I can shine if given the opportunity
Opportunity to follow my brothers to school
Opportunity to grow up and learn more from the teachers
If only my dreams are not shattered
I think of myself as a giraffe
My sight set high
Big vision on big things
You don't have to marry me off to an old man
Just because you think school is not the right place for a girl
I need to go to school and pursue my goals
I think of myself as a live engine
Always going never slowing
Time is elapsing 
Let my education not be a hot spot
The old man is waiting for my hand in marriage
The old woman is waiting with a knife
I need to go to school and pursue my goals
I think of myself as a lion
To roar loud and be heard
You don't have to take me as your wife
Just because I am a beautiful girl
Instead teach me a mathematical formula
So that my dreams are not shattered
I think of myself as a star
I think of myself as a live engine
I think of myself as a giraffe
I think of myself as a lion
Dear teacher, parents and guardians
Give me the rights I am entitled to.

A chat with the author

Kowsar Asad Warsame, or honey as she is known to her friends, is an inspiration to those around her, using poetry and media as a tool for making change. Born in Dadaab refugee camp, from Somali origin, she began creative writing in 2010 after being given a writing assignment at school. ‘I never really thought much about writing poetry’, she says, ‘we used to recite poems in class, but I didn’t know that I could write them’.

For International Women’s Day in 2011, she was tasked again to write a piece. She came up with Voice of a Girl Child. ‘There was no specific inspiration’, she says, ‘the issues I talk about are real and happening for girls every day. Young girls are getting engaged and are not allowed to speak out. They do not know they have rights.’

Kowsar, one of 6 girls in the family, met FilmAid in 2011 and trained in the Youth Filmmaker Training program as well as in radio. She is also a regular contributor to The Refugee Newspaper that is produced by FilmAid and the refugee community in Dadaab.

Now, 18yrs old, Kowsar has left the camp following some challenges in her community. ‘I have made a few speeches to girls in the camp about the value of education and knowing your rights. Some people don’t like that I share these things.’ she says. Leaving her community however, has not stifled the spirit of this young woman.

Now finishing her class 8 final examinations, Kowsar wants to pursue a career in the arts or media. ‘These poems are for women and girls who need a voice, but also to help me express myself too’. Koswar is finishing her latest poem My girl child education is lost and hopes to share it with FilmAid once the final touches are in place.

Nansen Refugee Award winner brings knowledge and hope to displaced Somalis

This blog has been reposted from UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency

GALKAYO, Somalia, September 18 (UNHCR)  When Hawa Aden Mohamed was a young girl, her father made a decision that would change her life  and through her, transform the lives of thousands of Somali girls. He sent her to school.

Hawa Aden Mohamed went on to earn two university degrees before launching an ambitious programme to educate and empower Somali women and girls, many of them displaced by conflict or famine. Today, UNHCR announced that she has won the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award, which honours extraordinary service to those who flee war or persecution.

"Without education, you are unaware of so many things," Hawa Aden Mohamed said in a recent interview in the town of Galkayo, some 600 kilometres north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. "Without education, you do not exist much  physically yes, but mentally and emotionally, you do not exist."

Once a refugee herself, Hawa Aden Mohamed returned to her homeland in 1995 and discovered her calling. As co-founder of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD), she has helped restore hope and opportunity to local residents as well as those seeking refuge from the nation's long-running conflict and recurring droughts.

The centre offers free schooling to girls as well as literacy and awareness classes for women, tailoring courses, vocational training for boys, and food and other relief items to the displaced. Since it opened in 1999, the number of girls receiving education in the Mudug district has risen from 7 per cent to 40 per cent, the highest in the country, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

GECPD encourages women and girls to see themselves as full members of society who possess fundamental human rights. And it openly addresses the complex issues of female genital mutilation, puberty, early marriage, rape and HIV/AIDS.

Local residents were initially wary of Hawa Aden Mohamed's aims. "The mosques spoke of us, said we were devils … but we just kept quiet," she said. "It calmed down, when they saw how many, almost 250 women, were taking classes in adult education. We had built around 12 schools."

Won over by the centre's success, the people of Galkayo now call her Eedo (aunt) or Mama Hawa. "We always say there is hope, we should not lose our hope, our torch of life," she said. "We say this, but in reality it's very difficult, especially for women and children."

Born in the town of Baidoa in 1949, Mama Hawa lost a sister, Fatouma, who was circumcised around age seven and died soon afterwards from an infection. Their aunt, who organized the circumcision, did not know any better, she said. "The word 'why' was not there."

Mama Hawa continued her schooling in Mogadishu and then spent eight years in India, earning degrees in nutrition and child development. She returned home to work for Somalia's Ministry of Education, where she headed the department of women's education, and later opened a clothing business with one of her sisters.

When the military dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, she fled to Kismayo, Somalia's southern port city, and then to Kenya. She moved to Canada through a family reunification programme, but her heart was in Somalia.

Returning to her homeland in 1995, she set up a women's education centre in Kismayo. She fled a few years later when rival militia turned the town into a battleground. "I even came without my glasses," she recalled. "I left them behind, everything left behind."

She came back from exile a second time in 1999 and settled in Galkayo, as her husband was working at a nearby research institute.

In recent years GECPD has begun working with boys, too. It offers carpentry and welding classes as well as a recreational space to help keep young boys off the streets and prevent them from falling into the clutches of pirates or armed groups.

Amid a slight improvement in the political situation, Mama Hawa and her team are teaching girls about the new constitution, so that they will know their rights.

"Education never finishes," she said. "Every day you will see something new. Myself, I am not well educated. I cannot say everything. Education is always a continuous learning process. Education is everything."

By Clar Ni Chonghaile in Galkayo, Somalia

Refugee Filmmakers Shine at Film Festival

When people talk about refugees and life in the camps, the image that comes to mind is what the news channels have been feeding us over the years. Malnourished children, endless fights, hunger, tents not worth living in and general harsh environmental conditions. As much as this could be true, what we never realize is that within this camp, ordinary lives are going on! Children are born and go to schools, talents are nurtured, businesses are thriving, and boys are hitting on girls… You know, the usual stuff that happens in any other modern society.

“We always forget that these people have talents and are just human beings like any others” Says Duc Mallard, a 19 year old Burundian refugee filmmaker now living in Kakuma. Duc was speaking at the closing ceremony of the recently concluded FilmAid Film Festival at Alliance Française in Nairobi where his film “Kakuma can Dance” received the award for best documentary film.

A passionate dancer, musician and filmmaker, Duc Mallard was able to bring these three elements together in his short documentary Kakuma Can Dance. This video portrays the life of young refugees who are not only obsessed by hip hop dancing but use the dance for recreation and as a way of interacting among themselves. All they want is a chance to be able to showcase their skills against those of Kenyans at the national level.

Speaking during a discussion panel in Nairobi, Duc together with renowned Kenyan film and TV producers; Judy Kibinge and Mburugu Gikunda, talked about how they hope the films would portray various aspects of life in the camps and break down some of the stigma attached to refugee life.  The panelists were drawn from the media, human rights groups, UN refugee agency (UNHCR), academia, film industry and the refugee community. The audiences engaged in lively discussions and Q&A sessions on topics such as: media and human rights, displaced persons, xenophobia, racism and tribalism

Mohammed Sheikh Bashir is a budding journalist, blogger and Filmmaker who has been living in Dadaab since 1991 when he was the age of 4. His documentary film “Pesa” saw him bag the prestigious award for best director from Dadaab. His film is about a character called Pesa who has lived in a rural village all his life. He understands bartering to be the way of life, as no other form of currency exists in the village. When he decides to move to an urban town, Pesa must come face-to-face and understand the true value of money.

Also screening from Dadaab were: “Ibramina” and “Towards the Light” by Hassan Jimale; “Shattered and Restored” by Fu’ad Abdi Affey and “Lacag (Pesa)” by award-winner, Mohamed Bashir Shiek, for best director.

The line-up from Kakuma included: “Love Worthy Suicide” by Akolom Fredrick; “Larme (Tears)” directed by John Thomas; “Ayang (Hero)” by Majok Mabil; “The Edge” by Ebenyo William Eloto  and “Bitter Tears” directed by Lowot John Peter.

The FilmAid Film Festival is an annual event that provides a platform to the young and talented filmmakers living in and around Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya to be able to showcase their work in the community as well as national and global level. These youth undertake a one-year film-training program where they are taught basic skills in filmmaking after which they produce their own films. The FilmAid Filmmaker Training Program is a youth and media arts program that targets young refugees from the surrounding host communities with media training that equips them to use media for social good.

This year, the seventh run of the FilmAid Film Festival was held over one week  (12-16 August) in Kakuma and Dadaab, and three days (21-23 August) in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Mathare and Kibera, and at Alliance Française. The festival showcased 16 refugee films and 6 foreign entry submissions under the theme “The Right to Tell Our Stories”.

Speaking to local journalists in Dadaab, John Kilungu, (Programs Manager, FilmAid Dadaab) said, this years` theme provides the youth with an opportunity to tell their stories in their own voices to the rest of the world. “Unfortunately most of the content shown in Dadaab is predominantly from local and international media that is mostly shaped to fit a particular audience and therefore we hope that the event will help increase local content for people leaving in Dadaab” he added.

The featured international entries were an award-winning collection from the USA, Rwanda, Sweden, India and the UK. These films were “Finding Hillywood” by Leah Warshawski & Chris Towey; “The Last Day” by Siddartha Gigoo, “A Testimony” by Marta Lefler, “Rain is Beautiful” by Marc Silver & Nick Francis, “Nickel City Smiler” directed by Scott Murchie & Brett Williams and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” directed by Benh Zeitlin.

Fresh from its success at Cannes and Sundance film festivals, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” took the premier spot in the screenings in Dadaab, Kakuma and Nairobi. This daring, atmospheric and richly textured film, is shot through with raw emotion in a forgotten but defiant bayou community that has been cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee. The ten-year-old protagonist, Hushpuppy, exists on the brink of orphan hood, buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination; she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm transforms her reality. Desperate to bring order back to her world by saving her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions. Check out the trailer here.

In the camps, the festival consisted of much more than mere screenings, students from the Filmmaker Training Program, together with FilmAid staff held several filmmaking clinics where eager youth were introduced to the basic skills of handling a camera, shooting and given tips in video editing. This helped to encourage more people to sign up to be a part of the next generation of young FilmAid filmmakers.

In addition, a team from My Start Project from the UK, held a two-week workshop in Kakuma to teach young students skills in filmmaking, painting, drawing and photography to help them express their stories in more creative ways.

Ismail Shallis, a member of My Start says, the complete art works are taken back and exhibited in schools in Europe and America, so that the kids in those countries can learn about the life of a refugee in the camps and hopefully to remove some of the stigma in the West about what is it like to be a refugee.

“Young people in the camps have limited opportunity for creative expression, which is crucial for young people who have lived through distressing experiences and face uncertain futures” said Tania and Amy Campbell Golding, Co-founders of My Start.

At the closing gala, residents of Kakuma were treated to an electric performance by one of Kenya’s rising hip-hop stars, Octopizzo. Among others singles Octopizzo sang, Ivo Ivo, Swag, BilaMic, and Mama, his favorite hit. During his three-day visit in Kakuma, Octopizzo met with the music artists living in the camps where he encouraged them to work hard, continue their art, and overcome the challenges their environment presents.  Meanwhile, Octopizzo is planning to produce a music video in Kakuma, which will include some of the talented music artists living in the camp.

We would like to thank our wonderful audiences during our mass out-door evening screenings in Kibera and Mathare Informal settlements. Special thanks to the filmmakers, panelists, Chris Cooper our projectionist!, Charles Otieno for braving the heat in the discussion panels!! And OCTOPIZZO for his electric performances and great hits .We are most grateful to U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Population, Refugees (BPRM), and Movies that MatterMy Start and UNHCR for supporting us!

Looking forward to a bigger and better FilmAid Film Festival 2014!

FilmAid launches DADAAB STORIES, a new multimedia project from the world's largest refugee camp

Dadaab Stories

FilmAid is proud to announce the launch of DADAAB STORIES, a new interactive, multimedia documentary project charting everyday life in the world’s largest refugee camp. The vast majority of the nearly 500,000 refugees living in Dadaab are from Somalia, displaced by armed conflict, natural disaster or persecution.

DADAAB STORIES is now available at:

Bringing together video, poetry, music, community journalism and personal blogs on a cutting edge, interactive website, DADAAB STORIES is a living, curated collection of personal stories from one of the most challenging environments on the planet. DADAAB STORIES allows visitors to explore the refugee experience and engage with Dadaab camp through information and imagery.

Our goal with DADAAB STORIES is to help open up a window between global audiences and the extraordinary and inspiring community in Dadaab, people we’re privileged to work with every day. Normally the media only shows up in these far-flung, dusty corners of the globe when headlines are screaming. But it’s important to know that life goes on in Dadaab every day — real, human life in all its colors. Stubborn, confounding, rich, beautiful, comic, messy — often devastating — yet sometimes glorious. These lives — and their stories — are real, they count and they deserve to be known
— says Liz Manne, Executive Director of FilmAid


DADAAB STORIES is an evolving online documentary and ultimately a collaborative community media project. It is a place for refugees to share their stories with the world. It is an initiative of FilmAid, a humanitarian media organization that has been making, teaching and screening films in Dadaab since 2006.

DADAAB STORIES is nonlinear and multimedia. Stories are told through video, photography, poetry, music and journalism. Everyone in the Dadaab refugee camp has a story to tell, and this is the place to share these stories. Just like Dadaab itself, DADAAB STORIES is always changing, and new content is added regularly.

DADAAB STORIES is a groundbreaking web initiative, which utilizes the Tumblr social media platform in ways that have never been seen before.  Accessing Tumblr's enormous, vibrant community will ensure these important stories are seen and shared among a diverse audience.

DADAAB STORIES was inspired by the countless untold stories of refugees living in Dadaab and around the globe. Acting as an art piece, oral history archive and advocacy tool, DADAAB STORIES brings the daily realities of refugees closer to a global audience than ever before.



About Dadaab

Located in Kenya, near the Somali border, Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee settlement. Managed by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Dadaab serves a population of nearly 500,000 refugees, the majority Somali. Refugees arrive in the camp fleeing armed conflict, disaster or persecution. Following famine and renewed conflict in the region in 2011, over 100,000 new refugees flooded into the camp. More recently, the region has been hit by a series of major security incidents including kidnappings of aid workers and IED explosions.