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.

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. 

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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.  

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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.

SandBox #4 – Pre-Testing Stories & Characters

In FilmAid's new drama series, SandBox - developed, produced and filmed in the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab - we go behind the scenes into the community-based scripting process...

In the series, the character Uhuoma aspires to take a leadership role in a male-dominated football (for Americans, soccer) team. When the FilmAid production team asks a group of youth whether this is okay, the answer might shock you.

A woman’s role is just to serve tea and not to take up leadership, especially in a male dominated sport...”
— said a young man among them.

Here, it is sometimes difficult to change long-held attitudes and behaviors regarding women’s rights and social expectations without education and access to alternate beliefs. As an NGO focused on communications, FilmAid strives to provide refugees access to information and education, including on issues related to gender-based rights and relations.

FilmAid endeavors to deliver social change both individually and in the community, through creativity, collaboration and participation. An individual has the opportunity to increase their knowledge, and change their attitudes, while the community can also rise to the occasion by responding to social issues and addressing harmful social norms, making change possible.

This is why a story, a camera, and a script did not cut it for SandBox. FilmAid's Research and Learning Department stepped in and took it a notch higher, answering the following questions in close consultation with the refugee community in Dadaab: i.e., "pre-testing" the stories and characters for SandBox.

1. Does the material that FilmAid produce have the ability to deliver on its goal? 

2. Is the material relatable? Is it believable?

3. Does it adhere to the "Do No Harm" policy?

4. Are the aesthetics and the creative elements of the story up to local and high standards?

As said by Mordecai Robins Odera, FilmAid's Research and Learning Manager for Kenya, and also the lead on the pre-testing for SandBox, “The scriptwriters should try as much as they can to make the audiences have a uniform understanding”.

The scripting process took place over six weeks, resulting in the final SandBox Script.

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 hearing more refugee stories straight from the camp, check out our Dadaab Stories interactive website, which brings the power of refugees’ voices from across the world 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

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. 

 

Farida's Story: From Facilitator to Filmmaker in Kakuma Camp

“When people talk about film, they say it’s for men, especially in African culture. They think a woman can never hold a camera. People think film is only acting, but there are so many roles in filmmaking, and a woman can do anything if she has the opportunity to learn” Farida Naimana tells FilmAid in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. 

Farida, 23, who is originally from Burundi, was one FilmAid’s first students in Kakuma. A camp which is receiving record numbers of refugees for the second consecutive year. The camp was originally established in 1992 to serve Sudanese refugees, but has since expanded to serve people from Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Uganda, and Rwanda. Kakuma’s population is close to 125,000 but growing rapidly every year. 

Farida’s experience as a FilmAid student led her to taking on the role of Outreach Facilitator within the camp. FilmAid’s Outreach Facilitators are integral and unique, they work tirelessly to bring about community engagement and participation through various media and workshops.  Farida's day would involve meeting with diverse people across the camp and delivering programs or workshops in the midst of the dust storms and harsh desert environment of the camp. 

For Farida, the skills she gained as a Facilitator, meant she was eager to challenge herself further and enter the field of film production. She quickly joined our Filmmaker Training Program. Farida tells us, “I had to start from scratch when I moved to production. I did not know how to operate simple equipment like the camera and big computers. Now I am learning how to handle a camera, shoot, edit the videos and actually produce content”.

Farida’s story reveals how passion and creativity can be ignited through exposure to new opportunities like our Filmmaker Training Program. Many people living in refugee camps don't have the chance to learn new skills, and opportunities for expressing creativity are lacking. Farida not only rejects any stereotype suggesting that women cannot be involved in film, but she proves that talents can flourish in the most challenging places.

Want to know about how women benefit from our Filmmaker Training Program in Dadaab refugee camp? Click here

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.

Stars shine for FilmAid fundraising PSA: “Why Film?”

Actors Rufus Sewell, Sarita Choudhury and Sienna Guillory – alongside refugees from Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya – are featured in FilmAid’s new PSA, “Why Film?” which launches today at www.filmaid.org/whyfilm

Produced with the support of Ridley Scott Associates and independent filmmaker K. Ryan Jones, the two minute film asks the fundamental question why film and provides compelling examples of the role film, and the work of FilmAid, plays in humanitarian crises.

Shot in New York, London and Kenya, “Why Film?” brings together members of the film community from a variety of backgrounds, lending their voices to help raise vital funds for FilmAid International. Filming in London, Sienna Guillory said, “The work that FilmAid does is vital. The conditions they operate in, and the lengths they go to bring mobile cinemas into refugee camps, are extraordinary. Teaching essential film-making skills to refugees to ensure that life-saving information is shared through the camps, whilst also using film to give people something other than loss they can bond over, and a means to escape their emotional situation is so important. I hope that ‘Why Film?’ helps people understand why film aid is a necessity and not a luxury.” 

Founded in 1999 by award-winning producer Caroline Baron (Capote, Monsoon Wedding), FilmAid is a non-profit, charitable organization with a mission to use the power of film and media to bring life-saving information, psychological relief and much-needed hope to refugees and other communities in need around the globe.

Media Contact:
Chloe Franses, The Global Cause Consultancy
chloe@theglobalcauseconsultancy.com
+44 777 934 5371

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
rnjoki@filmaid.org   |   ph: +254 (0) 722 540 543

A Fantastic Evening! FilmAid's Annual Power of Film Benefit

Guests from the film industry and humanitarian community gathered on November 20 to show support for FilmAid’s efforts to harness the power of film to provide critical information where it is needed and inspire hope where it is lacking. FilmAid's Annual Power of Film Benefit took place at Lexicon night club in New York City.

Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm, Restrepo) was honored with FilmAid’s Richard C. Holbrooke Memorial Award for Dedication to Humanitarian Service. He received the award for his career’s work, as an award-winning documentarian and best-selling author, recognizing the power of film as a cultural force and a window to new worlds and experiences. Said Junger, “FilmAid [puts] cameras into the hands of people who have grown up in very troubled countries, who are in some ways in the best position to document those troubles and inform the rest of the world about them. That is an unbelievably important task." 

The award was presented by author and human rights advocate Kati Marton, whose late husband Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke was an early supporter of FilmAid and namesake of the annual award.

FilmAid Founder Caroline Baron presented the FilmAid Community Leadership Award to Eline Media Founder and CEO Michael Angst for his many years of service as FilmAid’s Board Chair. FilmAid’s Executive Director Simon Goff was joined on stage by Rodriguez Shamamba, FilmAid alumni from Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya who was recently resettled to Massachussetts. Griffin Dunne acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event, which included a Silent Auction.

FilmAid thanks its generous event sponsors including American Express, Robert and Tracy Baron, Condé Nast, The Culver Studios, Film Finances Inc., FilmNation Entertainment, HBO, The Hollywood Reporter, Nancy and Ron Proesel, Relativity Media, and Variety. 

See our complete photo album from the event on Facebook