South Sudan

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.

Emmanuel Jal takes Peace Campaign to Kakuma

Emmanuel Jal visited Kakuma Refugee Camp in partnership with FilmAid International on September 28, during his international We Want Peace Tour. Former Sudan war child and refugee, now hip-hop star and activist, Emmanuel’s visit held special resonance for the international star and his audience. In Kakuma, Jal recorded “Yei,” a song about overcoming struggles and getting through the difficult situations.  Created by Silverstone and Jal, the performance featured talented refugee music artists from Kakuma and will be launched internationally with FilmAid International in November. Jal also recorded a music video of one of his hit singles in the beautiful scenery of Kakuma with the help of FilmAid’s student filmmakers. “I am extremely amazed by the great talent in the camp ranging from filmmaking and singing to dancing, and I loved being able to collaborate with them and inspire them through my own experiences,” said Jal.

As part of his We Want Peace Tour, the soft-spoken peace ambassador had an opportunity to speak with the South Sudanese communities at the camp, promoting peace and the importance of entrepreneurism, which he feels is lacking among young people in the community. Jal also engaged the elders in a panel discussion on ways to finding lasting peace in Sudan and the possibility of repatriation for the Sudanese community in Kakuma. As an advocate of women’s rights, Jal pledged funds to the education of women and girls in the Sudan.

On Saturday September 28, Emmanuel Jal and traditional and contemporary dance groups and musical artists treated audiences of many different nationalities in Kakuma to electric performances. The crowds stood through the entire performance, enjoying hit after hit from Jal singing alongside his sister, Nyaruach and his other backup singer Nyamal. Nyaruach and Nyamal traveled from Dadaab refugee camp to be a part of the concert.

As a witness to the atrocities of Sudan’s second civil war and having been a child soldier himself, Emmanuel now uses music to tell his story and advocate for peace. The We Want Peace campaign aims to “raise awareness on the fundamental principles of justice, equality, unification and conflict prevention.” Following his time in Kakuma, Jal took the We Want Peace Tour to Johannesburg, where he performed and spoke at the One Young World Summit in alongside Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, Yunes Mohamed and Bob Geldof. Later this month he will travel to Zambia for a community and school tour in Lusaka.

At FilmAid we are often fortunate to meet individuals who have incredible and unbelievable stories. Occasionally we get to work with someone who has truly seen the darkest parts of humanity only to emerge empowered and motivated to advocate for social justice and human rights. These inspiring individuals are everywhere and all deserve to have their stories told and their voices heard. We are glad to support Emmanuel Jal’s We Want Peace Tour in Kenya.