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.

FilmAid Screenings in Jordan, 2015

#WithSyria screening, March 2014

#WithSyria screening, March 2014

As the prolonged conflict in Syria moves into its fifth year, over 3.9 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes. This number continues to rise daily. 

The #WithSyria campaign began on the third anniversary of the conflict. In March 2014, FilmAid International traveled to Jordan's Za'atari Refugee Camp, close to the Syrian border, to host a screening of the Palm d'Or-winning film, Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon) to an audience of Syrian refugees.

FilmAid is now back in Jordan one year later to conduct a Mobile Cinema Screening series for women, children and youth within rural and urban areas of Jordan.  

Children take part in a discussion after educational screening, March 2015 

Children take part in a discussion after educational screening, March 2015 

FilmAid has partnered up with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children to deliver critical health and protection messages to over 1,000 Syrian refugees who have been forced to flee their country. As well as screening educational content, we also show films for entertainment, which provide much-needed joy and psychological relief for communities that have gone through extraordinary trauma. In addition, events like our Mobile Cinema Screenings enhance community cohesion.

During the screenings, youth and children have been able to take part in facilitated community-based discussions. Some children have already expressed their wishes and aspirations to continue their studies, and discussed the problems and challenges they face daily in the refugee camp.

We would like to thank Greyscale Films for their help to make the screenings possible, as well as the other coalition partners, UNHCR and Save the Children. 

If you'd like to support FilmAid's program in Jordan, please visit our Donate page and help us continue to bring life-saving information and hope to Syrian refugees. 

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.

FilmAid and Every Mother Counts at The Bulgari

Porter Magazine 2014

Porter Magazine 2014

It is fundamental to work together to save each and every woman.

Statistics show that one woman dies every two minutes from complications during pregnancy and birth. This is why FilmAid was honored to join Christy Turlington Burns for Porter Magazine's event with Every Mother Counts at The Bulgari, to raise awareness of the vital need for the continued progress and preservation of maternal health. 

Driven by her own experience of pregnancy and giving birth, Christy founded Every Mother Counts with the aim of providing every mother with the same level of information and healthcare she had received when she needed it most. 

Stella and Sian speak at bulgari.JPG

A touching speech was given on behalf of FilmAid by FilmAid’s UK Chair, Sian Sutherland, and FilmAid’s Country Director for Kenya, Stella Suge. 

Emphasizing the common ground shared by the two organizations, Sian discussed Every Mother Counts and FilmAid’s important contributions to safeguarding women’s health and dignity by the provision of information and the giving of hope, life skills, and voices.


Stella spoke of her first-hand experience working on a FilmAid maternal health program based in two of the largest refugee camps in the world, Kakuma and Dadaab in Kenya. With over half a million people living as refugees in Kenya, and over half of these people being women, maternal health necessitates urgent action. Stella expressed that she had seen women die as a result of absence of knowledge and information, a situation that was complicated further by cultural issues relating to how women receive professional hospital treatment. In light of these experiences, FilmAid devised a program that included creating an informative film made by and for refugees. The film focussed on informing viewers of the critical need and benefits of maternal health, thus contributing to the ongoing welfare of mothers and thier children. 


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. 

FilmAid Asia's Mary Soan Wins Diva/Hugo Boss High Heeled Warrior Award

FilmAid's program director in Asia, Mary Soan, has won the Diva/Hugo Boss High Heeled Warrior Award for Community Service!

The High Heeled Warrior Awards aim to recognize and celebrate women living in Asia who have contributed and created a positive impact in their community. Mary is recognized for her work for FilmAid on the Thai/Burma border.

FilmAid's work in Asia began in 2009 with a highly successful pilot project in Thailand's Mae La refugee camp, one of nine camps located on the country's western border with Burma which hosts more than 150,000 refugees. Over the past four years Mary has overseen programming in the region, including the creation of multiple films, training and mentoring of refugees within FilmAid Asia's Film Production Programme, and the addition of a workshop space for training, auditions, rehearsals and shooting. 

You can read an interview with Mary about her influences and career on the High Heeled Warrior's website and watch a clip about Mary's work for FilmAid and what winning this award means to her below. Congratulations, Mary!

Report from the field: FilmAid’s Filmmaker Training Program for Girls in Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya

FilmAid Kenya’s Communication Intern, Sammy Olumola visited Hagadera Refugee Camp, one of six camps in the Dadaab complex. There he met with participants in FilmAid’s Filmmaker Training Program designed exclusively for women and girls.

Dadaab, Kenya – July 23, 2013 – For most Somali girls in Dadaab Refugee Camp, cultural biases are barriers to participation in public life. Women are not allowed to interact freely with men or even speak in public; their voices have been silenced by a male dominated society.

It is the month of Ramadan and I am set to meet a group of 15 Somali girls assembled in a classroom at the Information, Communications and Technology Centre in Hagadera. As I enter the room, Robert Gikunji, a FilmAid staff member and trainer, has already informed the girls of my visit to ask them about their training.

“Why did you join this class?” I asked. The girls are timid, but Halima Mohammed Ali, the class prefect, raises her hand and breaks the ice. “I want to be journalist” she says. Soon more hennaed hands shoot up to contribute to the discussion.

The training targets Somali girls who have completed secondary education to assist in building their future careers in filmmaking and other media professions. The project further seeks to empower the girls by strengthening their self-confidence and social skills.

According to John Kilungu, Manager of FilmAid in Dadaab, strong cultural beliefs have continued to limit the participation of Somali girls who wish to join the Filmmaker Training Program. Some members of the community have often ridiculed those girls who have completed work behind the camera, or engaged in public film activities. The program hopes to encourage active participation by providing a favorable and safe environment for learning.

Since October 2012, the girls have been introduced to a number of topics on cinematography. The majority of their studies focus on scriptwriting and video editing, as such skills do not necessarily require the girls to be shooting films publicly–thus reducing the risk of community backlash.

According to Hussein, member of the Filmmaker Training Program, most people consider the film industry to be dominated by men. She recounts sneaking out of her house to attend film classes because her parents did not approve of her undertaking such a career.

I listen keenly to Robert as he explains how difficult it is for him and the girls to conduct practical lessons in Hagadera. Instead he has to transport the girls, 32km distance to the nearby Girls’ Centre’ in Dagahaley refugee camp. There, Robert can comfortably teach the girls how to handle cameras and film.

"The Girls’ Centre in Dagahaley is a safer place where I can teach them various practical skills of handling a camera. And they also move around freely with the cameras within the Centre,” said Robert.

Built in 1991 to shelter 30,000 refugees fleeing Somalia, Hagadera now houses over 132,000 people, according the UN refugee agency, 60% of whom are women. Despite their huge numbers, Somali women do not have the freedom to speak openly and share their experience even amongst themselves, let alone with the rest of the world. Among others, the International Rescue Committee has been sensitizing refugees in the roles of women and the need to empower women and children. The community has begun to slowly change their perception of women in society. “Before, my parents and relatives would not allow me to leave my home to interact with other people in the community, but now they have started appreciating my contributions in the family. They are very supportive and they give me permission to go out and meet my friends and work.” Fardosa Ali, a facilitator at FilmAid in Hagadera.

“If we get more knowledge, the men in the community will listen and respect us,” said Khadro, a member of the Filmmaker Training Program.

Most of the participants in FilmAid’s training program would like to pursue full-time careers in filmmaking and journalism. The success of the program has drawn significant attention, particularly from local leaders of the surrounding host communities, who live in the vicinity of Dadaab refugee camps. As a result, some are insisting on being consulted during the recruitment process of new members.

Since its introduction in February 2009, over 60 people have been trained in the Filmmaker Training Program. Thirty-five are currently undergoing training: ten people from the host community, ten boys and 15 girls from the refugee communities. As part of the training, FilmAid has invited Visiting Training Artists to Dadaab to train participants on specialized areas of filmmaking such as lighting, script writing, editing, directing and casting. 

Meanwhile, FilmAid is in the process of forming an alumni association of all the program’s graduates. The Filmmaker Training Program alumni association will be run by the members and will offer further trainings as a form of income generation to the group.

As the program’s participant’s increase, the main challenge becomes one of limited resources. The students are forced to share a camera, an editing machine and other production equipment, which has resulted in less time dedicated to practical lessons.

Consequently, FilmAid has decentralized its activities to different camps in Dadaab complex to allow wider participation in the program’s activities. For instance, the Filmmaker Training Program is based in Hagadera; the print media project (The Refugee Newsletter) is based in Dagahaley; and the participatory video project is based at IFO refugee camp.

The Filmmaker Training Program in Hagadera has changed the lives of many refugees already. Robert and his colleagues at FilmAid in Dadaab hope that this initiative will inspire behavioral change amongst Somali communities to allow more girls to freely pursue filmmaking careers.

FilmAid thanks the many supporters who make the program possible, including contributors to Slashfilm's campaign earlier in 2013.