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.


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.

Celebrating our 8th Annual Film Festival in Kakuma and Dadaab

This week, FilmAid is holding our 8th Annual Film Festival in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, celebrating the unique stories of refugees and other marginalized populations.

Crowds at Hope Primary School in Kakuma for this year's film festival

The screenings of these films have had an amazing reception from the refugee populations so far (and it’s only been two days)! Community spaces where the films are being shown are crowded with men, women and children, vying for front row seats.  Showcasing the films of young refugee filmmakers trained by FilmAid in both Kakuma and Dadaab, the Film Festival also provides an opportunity for filmmakers across the world to share the “Untold Stories” (our 2014 Festival theme) of the vulnerable and the voiceless.

If you’re not in Kakuma or Dadaab right now, you can still get a sneak peek of the Film Festival by watching our trailer here. 

For more updates about the Film Festival activities this week (as well as the Nairobi activities happening next week, which are free and open to everyone), check out our featured 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.

SandBox #3: One-on-One with Ledama Sampele, First Assistant Direct

We sat down with Ledama Sampele, a Kenyan filmmaker and the Assistant Director (AD) of FilmAid’s SandBox series, a drama series that explores the lives of refugees in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab. 

The Role of a First Assistant Director

 The First Assistant Director is the Director's right hand person, taking responsibility for a number of important practicalities so that the Director is free to concentrate on the creative process.  During pre-production, the First AD breaks down the script into a shot-by-shot storyboard, they also work with the Director to determine the shoot order, and how long each scene will take to film. They draw up the overall shooting schedule for the filming period.  Once the film is in production, they are in charge of making sure that every aspect of the shoot keeps to this schedule.

What was it like working as the First AD for FilmAid’s SandBox series?

In SandBox, which was shot in Dadaab in early 2014, Ledama Sampele was the First Assistant Director and it seems like he was extremely happy to get this opportunity; “I have always wanted to be an AD for as long as I can remember. This has always been my dream job.” 

Having worked on productions like Makutano JunctionHigher Learning, Changes and Nairobi Half-Life, Ledama brings experience and expertise to the SandBox production. The students in Dadaab’s Filmmaker Training Program were given a real opportunity to learn from his throughout this experience.  

“Every job has its own fair share of challenges and perks.”

During the production of SandBox, the hot and dry climate of sandy Dadaab was perhaps the biggest challenge, which took Ledama some adjusting to. On top of this, our First AD, had to be patient because of the number of rehearsals. Additionally, since this was a single-camera shoot, scenes had to be repeated again and again and shot from different angles which obviously made the production process even more complicated. Despite the challenges of working in Dadaab, Ledama clearly found her work rewarding, “FilmAid is doing a great job. Engaging the youth in the Film Training Program here in Dadaab and this experience on the set is a great opportunity to build…the education of the young people. I hope that many other productions arise from this one”.

Stay tuned for more updates on the SandBox series over the next few months and check us out on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram to stay in touch for #SandBox updates. 

If you’re interested in learning about more refugee stories straight from Dadaab, check out our Dadaab Stories interactive website, bringing the power of refugees’ voices directly to your computer.

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

SandBox #2: My name is Njoki Mbuthia…I am a Filmmaker


This week, as part of our SandBox blog series, we are going to be talking to one of the producers of the show.

Njoki Mbuthia, a Kenyan filmmaker and Senior Producer at FilmAid, sat down to talk with us about her role as a producer for FilmAid’s SandBox, our unique drama series that explores the lives of refugees in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab. SandBox addresses a number of issues affecting the communities living in the Dadaab, like early marriage, gender violence and conflict resolution, among other issues.

Generally, producers have overall control on every aspect of a film's production, bringing together and approving the selection of the whole production team. Their primary responsibility is to foster an environment in which the creative talents of the cast and crew can flourish - producers are therefore ultimately accountable for the success of the finished film.

“I have been a writer for as long as I can remember,” says Njoki when asked. She used to write stories when she was young; her classmates would read them and always ask for her to write more. Njoki has been in the film industry from as far back as college, where she was a news editor and producer. She has also worked as a floor manager and a production intern at the Kenya Broadcast Cooperation (KBC). Throughout her stay at KCB, she shadowed directors. She later joined Good News Production where she caught a break as a director when they needed a director for a feature film, “Unseen Unsung Unforgotten”, and she rose to the challenge.

What is it like to work as a producer?

“Producing is very challenging, and that is what I enjoy about it. In the film industry, the producer usually writes a proposal and chooses which script should go into play when the script is not predetermined. He/she also looks for funds by pitching the story or script to potential donors/investors. He /she also ensures that the production goes according to schedule. A producer ensures that the script is properly aligned with the theme of the production. Pre-Production is preparation of the venue, the actors, the location and the days of shooting, among other details. Production is the filming process or shooting of the film. Post-Production includes video editing and sound editing.


How was it working as a Producer for SandBox?

“I chose to produce for SandBox because it was an opportunity to challenge myself and share my experience with the professional team on board as well as the Filmmaker Training Program students, whom I believe are upcoming professionals.”

“What is most exciting about the series is that it is authentically from Dadaab, the actors are from Dadaab, most of the crew is from Dadaab. Some parts are even shot in local dialect, like Somali and Gambela. The students and our staff on the ground have had a great opportunity to learn from the industry professionals we contracted.“

Stay tuned for SandBox #3 episode of our blog and check us out on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram to stay in touch for #SandBox updates.

If you’re also interested in learning about more refugee stories straight from Dadaab, check out our Dadaab Stories interactive website, bringing the power of refugees’ voices directly to your computer.

And as always, if you’d like to support FilmAid’s training and empowerment of local filmmakers, producers, writers, and actors, click here to find out how you can help. 

Sandbox #1: An Introduction to the Drama Series

We’re introducing you today to our new blog post series, focused on our recent production of SandBox, a unique six-part drama series that explores the lives of refugees in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in Northeastern Kenya. As part of FilmAid’s long-standing work in Dadaab, SandBox was made in conjunction with the refugee community members, to address health and social issues, as well as entertain the masses.

As we go through these series of blog posts over the next few months, we’ll introduce you to some of the people who worked on this production and take you behind the scenes to understand the challenges and opportunities that existed while filming in Dadaab. To start off the blog post series, let us tell you a little about the story of SandBox, and how its story addresses a number of issues affecting those who live in the camp, such as early marriage, gender-based violence (GBV), conflict resolution, and much more. 

SandBox is a drama series, which examines the daily lives of those people who live in Dadaab. The production weaves the stories of many refugees into a single, cohesive narrative. One of our main characters is Abdi, a young man whose quest for resettlement ends abruptly. His best chance of making a life now is by getting married to his sweetheart, Farhia, and becoming a family man. However, Abdi becomes an outcast in his community after he saves his little sister from early marriage. Meanwhile, Sarai is a new entrant into Dadaab. She has come to work for an NGO addressing child protection. Sarai arrives on a white horse, believing she has what it takes to ‘save’ these people from themselves and their ‘backward beliefs’. But Sarai is about to come face to face with reality. Can she truly adjust and be of use in Dadaab? Or does she discover this isn’t for her, after all?

Stay tuned for more updates on the SandBox series over the next few months and check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay in touch for #SandBox updates.

 If you’re interested in learning about more refugee stories straight from the camp, check out our Dadaab Stories interactive website, which brings the power of refugees’ voices directly to your computer. 

And as always, if you’d like to support FilmAid’s training and empowerment of local filmmakers, producers, writers, and actors, click here to find out how you can help.

Yvon Ngabo

Making Melodies in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp

This blog was reposted from Creative Time Reports
By FilmAid, Nairobi Kenya
December 14, 2012

“The Music Producer” is the story of Omwot Omwot Ogul, full-time music producer, part-time handyman, who lives in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee settlement.

After fleeing his homeland, the Gambela region in Ethiopia, in 2004, Omwot found himself in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. He subsequently moved to capital Nairobi, where he discovered his love of music. Five years later, Omwot was forced to uproot once again. This time, he relocated to the Dadaab camp, home to nearly 500,000 refugees.

Now an independent music producer, an unlikely profession in this isolated corner of sub-Saharan Africa, Omwot empowers his fellow refugees to make music about their lives and helps them record that music. On the side, he works as a handyman, repairing and charging phones for people in the camp, using a personal solar panel he built and installed.

“The Music Producer” was shot by Ramah Hawkins, a Nairobi-based filmmaker who spent several months in the settlement collaborating with FilmAid’s Kenyan and refugee staff and film students there. The short film is part of Dadaab Stories, a web-native, multi-media documentary project charting everyday life in the Dadaab refugee camp, located in eastern Kenya, on the border of Somalia. Using videos, poetry and music, Dadaab Stories provides a platform for refugees to tell their own stories to the world in their own voices.

Supported by the Tribeca Film Institute New Media Fund and the Ford Foundation, this project aims to increase public understanding of refugee lives, forge a deeper connection between the refugee community and the outside world, offer a platform for creative expression and document the history of the refugee experience.

Personal stories are the central part of the project – a record of the extraordinary experiences of the refugees in Dadaab, and a powerful advocacy platform for ongoing international attention to the region. But the project does not only focus exclusively on the darker aspects of life in the camps. Dadaab is a living place and the people in it live their lives and dreams just like anywhere else.

We hope you enjoy this special preview from FilmAid’s Dadaab Stories. If it inspires you with a spirit of generosity this holiday season, we thank you for supporting our work, projecting hope and making change for refugees and other displaced communities:

FilmAid Film Festival 2014 - Call for Entries is Now Open!

Theme: Untold Stories.

This year’s festival celebrates the numerous untold stories from the refugees and marginalized others from around the world. Showcasing the films of young refugee filmmakers from Kakuma and Dadaab Refugee Camps, the festival also provides an opportunity for filmmakers from across the globe to share the untold stories of the vulnerable and voiceless.

Over 45 million people across the globe are displaced and millions more are marginalized and stigmatized, film is a powerful tool for these communities to tell their own stories and break down the negative and false stereotypes that surround them. Through the power of film, this year’s festival provides the platform for these stories to be told through cinematic screenings and online.

The 2014 festival also coincides with FilmAid’s fifteenth anniversary of informing, entertaining and projecting hope for vulnerable communities, providing an opportunity to revisit stories told past and present. Across countries, languages and classes, film has the power to provide us with a release, an escape, a window into new worlds and new possibilities. Last year, we presented 20 films, including 16 short films from the student filmmakers of FilmAid's Filmmaker Training Program in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, along with 4 feature-length award winning international films.

Film can transcend culture, language and class, providing a window into new worlds and new possibilities. Show us something new; share your stories with us.

Deadline for submission is June 2, 2014.
Festival Contact: Risper Njoki   |   ph: +254 (0) 722 540 543

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.