Kakuma

My Start - From Kakuma to London

My Start Project - Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

AFRICA

My Start is a collaborative, creative Arts project working with Film Aid International. Since August 2012 My Start has run a series of Art, photography and film workshops in refugee camps each summer. These workshops encourage young refugees to share their experiences through the arts. The workshops teach practical skills, encourage creative expression and bring together the various ethnic and tribal refugee and host communities to work in a fun and dynamic way. 

Kakuma workshop

Kakuma workshop

Kakuma workshop

Kakuma workshop

United Kingdom

The art work produced at the camp is then exhibited in London schools. It acts as a powerful, visual resource that can be used across the curriculum to support learning on global issues. Issues such as conflict and conflict resolution, displacement and migration as well as promoting peace, tolerance and empathy. The exhibition encourages British students to share and discuss their own views on immigration, forced migration and refugees and challenges misconceptions and existing perspectives.

The student response was fantastic and thoroughly engaging
— Alex Costello, Art teacher, Park View School, UK.
                                                 London workshop

                                                 London workshop

The British schools are encouraged to create response work including their own visual diaries and messages for the refugees at Kakuma. This work is then taken back and exhibited at the camp the following summer.  My Start is an inspiring project that brings local and international communities together through the arts.

Creating the Mural - Kakuma Refugee Camp

If you would like to support the work of My Start and their projects with FilmAid International then please contact Tania and Amy or visit My Start's Facebook page.

tania@emmanueljal.com; campbellgoldingamy@googlemail.com

 

 

 

Light in the Shadows - By Hannah Kendi. FilmAid Kenya, Finance Officer

It's my third week in Kakuma and I am loving it. I have always wanted to be a humanitarian; it has always been like a thirst and something I felt I needed to do. I never really knew why, until FilmAid, actually, until I went to Kakuma. This is when I understood the real meaning behind what I do, why FilmAid works here, and why I needed to be a part of an organization like FilmAid. 

Hannah Kendi, Kakuma 2015

Hannah Kendi, Kakuma 2015

February 17, 2015: Field trip day.

Our first stop was the new arrivals camp. The first thing I noticed was that the facilitators were refugees themselves.  Here my colleagues and outreach facilitators were showing a film to a group of extremely attentive women on HIV and AIDS and thereafter conducting an amazing question and answer session.  My love story with FilmAid was just beginning. 

Issuing certificates to a women's group after completing a Health Course, Kakuma 2015

Issuing certificates to a women's group after completing a Health Course, Kakuma 2015

The second stop on our tour of Kakuma was a FilmAid journalism class.  FilmAid had a trainer taking these young men and women through the basics of journalism. I felt the hope in that class, the curiosity and the hunger for more knowledge. I am very passionate about the youth and education and it brought me to tears. It was amazing to learn that the journalism class gets fully involved in ideas and stories for FilmAid’s ‘The Refugee Magazine’.  I was completely blown away.

Next we visited a children’s event and screening.  A screen was set up showing cartoons to around two hundred excited children. This was probably the first chance for many of the children to watch cartoons. In some instances the first time in their lives.  It was wonderful to see their excited faces, hear their laughter and see the enthusiasm in answering questions after the screening. FilmAid gives the chance of normalcy to refugees at every opportunity.

February 29, 2015: My first evening screening.

A huge truck with a screen attached projected a children’s cartoon followed by a story about Cholera. The story was so simple yet so effective in its message. After this a movie was shown that was clearly enjoyed by everyone judging from the laugher and cheers in the nighttime crowds. Education, laughter, hope, teamwork and inspiration all rolled into one. There was literally light in the shadows.

Chivas Regal 

Chivas Regal 

FilmAid -  Projecting Hope, Changing lives. Using the power of film in promoting health, strengthening communities and enriching lives.

Every day I am in awe of the FilmAid team. Everyone is working so hard, co-operating, always on the move. My heart melts every time I watch our incentive staff in action. Talent, passion, hard work, energy and the biggest smiles on their faces. They work hard every day with over fifty activities every week and still, they love it. It’s about the impact, and FilmAid giving them the opportunity to showcase their excellence despite everything they have gone through. This is what Hope is about.

I hear the heat will go to my head soon and that this spark in my eyes will fade eventually. I doubt it. The spark appeared in my heart the minute I landed here in Kakuma. I am too busy falling in love with my job that I don’t even think about the heat. I walk around like a girl with new found love. Completely dazed. 

 

If you'd like to support FilmAid's training courses, media projects and mobile cinema screenings you can donate here.

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. 

andrewsanai.jpg

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.

World Humanitarian Day 2014

World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity to help others. As numbers of refugees increase, forcibly displaced people are in need of urgent humanitarian aid. Today, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people has exceeded 50 million people.

In recognizing World Humanitarian Day, FilmAid wish to honor our Outreach Facilitators who work tirelessly to ensure FilmAid’s media content and information reaches as many individuals as possible. Performing challenging work in circumstances and in environments that many are unable or unwilling to enter, they are undoubtedly our Humanitarian Heroes.  

Amelia.jpg

Bithou, who was featured in our film 'Take The Time', is 27 and originally from South Sudan. He currently lives in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. He has been a refugee for 12 years, since leaving behind the conflict in his hometown of Juba, South Sudan's capital. Bithou has been a FilmAid Outreach Facilitator since 2010. He plays a crucial role in assuring that everyone has equal access to important information through our film screenings and workshops. 

Our Facilitators use media and film to support new arrivals in the registration process at the camp, they help them to understand their rights as refugees, and inform them how to access key services throughout their stay.

"My goal for the future is that I should play a key role or do something makes a difference in other people's lives" Bithou tells us. Bithou, and all of FilmAid's Outreach Facilitators, are incredible examples of Humanitarian Heroes. Our Outreach Facilitators are usually refugees themselves. They have escaped conflict and experienced substantial personal tragedy, but are committed to helping others. They refuse to be seen as victims. Instead, they make it their mission to support, assist and help those who are in need.

No humanitarian effort can succeed without the commitment of those individuals who work in the field every day. It is for this reason that we are celebrating our Outreach Facilitators as Humanitarian Heroes today. Please join us by sharing your appreciation for FilmAid's #HumanitarianHeroes onTwitter and Facebook

Stay tuned for more from Bithou. We'll be sharing a film dedicated to him and his story in the next couple of weeks.

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.

World Refugee Day 2014: Take The Time to Meet Three Refugees

Fifteen years ago this month FilmAid produced its first ever film screening for refugees displaced by the conflict in Kosovo.

June 20th marks World Refugee Day 2014 and FilmAid is recognizing it by sharing a new film highlighting the unique and inspiring stories of 3 refugees who live in Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya.

There are over 45.2 million refugees and displaced people in the world today. Every day, after long and arduous journeys from their homes, thousands of people reach refugee camps like Dadaab in Kenya, Za’atari in Jordan and Mae La in Thailand. Conflict, climate change, and crisis force them to flee and become refugees. They leave behind families, friends and livelihoods.

But FilmAid knows that they are more than just refugees. They are people with courage, talent, and hope. They are individuals with unique stories to tell.

This World Refugee Day, meet Smart, Farida, and Bithou.

Smart, originally from the DRC, is a budding musician. The song, Refugee to Superstar, which provides the soundtrack to the film (it’ll stick in your head all day!) is written and performed by him. Farida, from Burundi, was one of the first students in our Filmmaker Training Program. And finally, Bithou who’s from South Sudan, works as a FilmAid Outreach Facilitator in Kakuma camp. Over the coming months, we'll release a brand new film about each of these talented individuals. 

The average length of time a person spends in a refugee camp is a staggering 17 years. A refugee camp is not always a short stopover, nor a brief moment of security from surrounding turmoil. Children are born in the camps, communities grow, and foundations are rebuilt. 

Smart, Farida, and Bithou’s stories from Kakuma camp are cause for celebration but crises are worsening daily in Syria and South Sudan, and famine and civil war are threatening the safety of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Countless more families will be torn apart and forced from their homes to start new lives in refugee camps. FilmAid work in camps across the world to support these individuals, we give them a platform to tell their stories and remind the world that they are more than just refugees. 

Take The Time to watch and share this inspiring film. Help us spread the word by sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. 

 

FilmAid's Research, Learning and Outreach

Ilana Sackler-Berner spent three weeks in Kenya working with FilmAid’s Outreach and Research and Learning teams in Nairobi and Kakuma. Here she reflects on her time with FilmAid.

This February, I had the incredible fortune of working with FilmAid in Nairobi and visiting Kakuma Refugee Camp.  I live and work in New York City as a public health professional.  This was my first trip to Africa.  I plan to return!

FilmAid delivers media content in Kakuma and Dadaab that is designed to inform refugees about critical issues affecting their lives (from health education to human rights, conflict resolution to economic empowerment) and to provide psychosocial relief.  In order to show that these programs have a practical impact on the lives of refugees, FilmAid conducts ongoing research to monitor and evaluate the reach, quality, and outcomes of programs.  I worked with FilmAid to design an approach to do just this.  Maybe not glamorous work (I love it anyways!!), but essential for continued and future funding.           

In Kakuma, I had the pleasure of conducting a training for the refugee facilitators of FilmAid’s Video Workshop Series.  These wonderful women and men are inspiring.  They are leaders. They are knowledgeable about the issues facing their communities, and skilled in delivering critical messages and facilitating engaging discussions.  They are kind, open-minded, and work hard to make a difference every day.  I am in awe of them.       

While in Kakuma, I attended an evening screening in the new arrivals section of the camp.  What a magical experience.  I think now I understand what FilmAid means by ‘the power of film.’  It is difficult to describe the emotion I felt in that moment.    

I am back in the United States now and I have taken many moments to ‘evaluate the impact’ my time in Kenya had on me personally.  I have no doubt it has changed me for the better.  I’d like to thank FilmAid’s staff in Kenya for being such wonderful hosts, teachers, and friends.  A very special thank you to Mordecai, FilmAid's Research and Learning Officer.  It was an absolute pleasure working with you.

Making Music in Kakuma

This February, Michael Sackler-Berner together with his wife Ilana (see her post here) spent one week in Kakuma with FilmAid staff. Michael brought state-of-the-art sound equipment and conducted workshops with FilmAid staff and students. Here is his account of the week!

Flying to Kakuma can be misleading. Though the plane I took was chartered and run by the World Food Programme and headed to a massive refugee camp hours from any city, it felt much like a standard commuter plane, complete with drink cart and flight attendants. It took only a few minutes upon arrival to realize it was no usual puddle jumper.

Kakuma is in the desert and the only real road signs I noticed as we approached the camp were those pointing to NGO compounds.  The armed, gated compounds are tucked inside a surprisingly large city of small, dusty homes.  Some homes are mud brick with metal roofs, others are tarp relief tents, and none have flooring or plumbing. 

The tremendously bumpy roads and paths the NGO land cruisers use to get around led us right to FilmAid’s offices. I clutched my guitar and bag hoping the recording gear inside wouldn't be damaged in this last leg of my two-day journey from Brooklyn to Kenya.

After a warm welcome from FilmAid’s field staff, I found myself in a small community building just past the new arrivals check-in point, with a generator pumping outside.  Within a few hours, microphones were set up, software installed, and monitors blasting. I would spend the next four days in this building with refugee and host community musicians, FilmAid audio staff, and countless refugees who would hear music and wander through to see what was going on. Outside the studio window was a latrine and a road where goats would occasionally wander by, munching on garbage that lines the paths. 

Time, which has a way of moving at light speed in New York, moves mighty slowly in a refugee camp. Refugees from every corner of the region live in Kakuma, from years to decades, with no ability to work and nowhere to go. It is not unusual to see someone spend a whole day under a tree, resting, with nothing to do. So anything to do, particularly something creative that results in a final product, is much needed psychological relief. It is met with open arms, excitement and preparation. 

Every morning, I worked with 4 or 5 artists, rappers, and singers to write a song. Every afternoon, we tracked the tune. When I work in professional co-writing sessions in New York or Nashville, it often takes hours before the writers find a new way of saying something meaningful enough to consider the words "lyric." Not in Kakuma. The artists have a lot to say and it is right on the surface.

The opportunity to be heard is a rare treat for these artists. They live difficult lives in arguably some of the toughest of conditions.  No time I spent with them was ever wasted or taken for granted. Questions, ideas, titles, melodies, beats, and lyric were constantly flowing from the 8:30am car ride to the studio, until the generator ran out of gas after our final playback around 6:00pm.

I never could've anticipated the wealth of talent FilmAid’s outreach staff was able to find.  Everything I’d heard about African rhythm was true and there seemed to be a gold mine of incredible singers and rappers with something important to say. They also have fantastic stage names – Smart, Diddy Stone, Afisa, King Moses, Fire Man, etc. FilmAid’s staff audio producers, Victor K. and Abdul, have the skills and gear to make fantastic and meaningful records for years to come.  Their passion for making records was deeply refreshing.

I could go on for days about the artist’s individual talents, heartbreaking stories, hopeful dreams, and plentiful skills, but I will let their music do the talking. With the help of FilmAid, they have a microphone that has the potential to not just bring them moments of joy when it is needed, but with any luck, and a touch of musical magic, bring their stories to the world.


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.