World Refugee Day

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. 


How A Joy Formidable Song Found Its Way to a Kenyan Refugee Camp

This entry is reposted from MTV IGGY

Band Aids FilmAid in Time for World Refugee Day By Beverly Bryan

20 June 2012-There is a proverb from Ghana that says “the drummer does not know how far the sound travels.” The Joy Formidable found out recently that this piece of wisdom holds as true for Welsh rockers in the UK as it does for West Africans.

The trio has become known worldwide for big swelling anthems that mix extremely loud shoegaze with the emotional punch of melodic post-hardcore. As of late, they’ve finished a second album, mostly recorded and written in Portland, Maine and finished on the tour bus while making their way through the US in March, followed by a big date at Bonnaroo. It was a bit rushed but they did get to see the Beach Boys. They’re busy building on the success of 2011′s debut album The Big Roar. They’ve reached a lot of people with their music, but about a month ago they found out just how far their sound had traveled.

Two filmmakers who had been volunteering as teaching artists in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Northern Kenya contacted them to say that they had used the Joy Formidable single “A Heavy Abacus” in a short film they shot with kids in the camp, most of whom are fleeing violence in Sudan. It shows some of the camp’s youngest residents smiling and mouthing the lyrics of the song, creating a very compelling impression that they are singing Bryan’s emotive vocals.

The filmmakers, Paola Mendoza and Topaz Adizes, wanted to know if it was alright with the band. It was. More than alright with it, The Joy Formidable has been enthusiastically spreading the word about FilmAid, the organization Mendoza and Adizes work with. “We’re very keen for people to see it,” singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan says, “We’re just very, very honored to be involved in the project.” She got to see the rough cut a couple of weeks ago.

Bryan admits she hadn’t heard of FilmAid before Mendoza and Adizes got in touch, but is now one of its champions. “There are a whole lot of problems to tackle in the area where they’re working, but I think the way they’re approaching it, through the power of images and art as a way of connecting with people is great,” Bryan says. “It’s a great charity. We hope the video helps them reach a wider audience. It challenges people to think for a second about how other people are living. Ultimately the idea of the video is to encourage people to donate to what is a great charity.”

FilmAid uses video in different ways to uplift refugees and other vulnerable communities all over the world. Workers teach filmmaking, help refugees tell their stories, and bring movies to inform and entertain camps using mobile movie screens attached to trucks. FilmAid released the video to raise awareness, not only about their work but about World Refugee Day. Observed annually on June 20, the date was created by the UN to remember those who have been forced by conflict or disaster to leave their homes, people like the kids in Kakuma.

The band members themselves wanted to find out more about Kakuma after they saw the video. “We were curious. It definitely affected us. The images are very moving. I think we all need to be shaken out of our complacency, to take a moment to think about other people’s situations,” the musician said.

Bryan explains “A Heavy Abacus” is in some ways in harmony with the video. Even if they didn’t have a refugee camp in mind when it was written, it is a song about children. “When we originally wrote it a year and a half ago it was very much inspired by themes of children growing up too fast, losing innocence, not being shielded from adult problems, materialism. That was what was driving the song originally, and a lot of that was just based on the current state of what children are exposed to. And wanting children to be children for as long as possible.”

“Obviously, the video has put it in a completely different context. It brings a whole new level of poignancy. These children, they’re facing a much more serious challenge of basic survival,” the soft-spoken frontwoman reflected.

Being forced to leave your home in the wake of civil war can certainly bring a loss of innocence, but in the video,  kids of all ages are just being kids — laughing and playing, albeit under difficult circumstances. That’s part of what makes the film so poignant. The stars of the video might show resilience, but the filmmakers depict something far more precarious,  explaining in text that 2,000 new refugees arrive at the Kakuma each month.

The video was shot in just three days using one camera, two light reflectors and an iPhone, but it’s hard to imagine it being more impactful. The final shot shows the entire cast singing the chorus: “Abacus watching me.” Their faces, like the accompanying words and melody, are hard to forget. It puts a vibrant human face on a humanitarian crisis.

“It’s a beautifully shot video and it kind of underscores their mantra at FilmAid. The way that they’re connecting with people in places like Kakuma is through the power of film. I think it’s a very obvious example of how that can transcend other forms of communication. Music, art and visuals combined can bring home a very powerful message,” Bryan says of the clip.

The award-winning filmmakers made a similar statement about their project: “While working in the Kakuma Refugee camp we were inspired by the strength of the people we met. So often refugees are forgotten because the problem seems too overwhelming. Our intention was to have two worlds crashing together with the hopes that in the mash-up both worlds’ beauty would shine through in their purest form.”

It seems to be having the desired effect. “Certainly, there have been a lot of people watching it who have been curious about the background, the charity and the work that FilmAid does. It’s had a great response. It’s been shared by a whole host of people from different walks of life it seems,” Bryan reports.

There is more information about World Refugee Day at

New UN report shows record 800,000 people became refugees in 2011

This entry is reposted from the UN news center. Photo:UNHCR/B.Bannon

UNHCR set up the first camps in the Dadaab complex in 1991 to host up to 90,000 people. Today they host more than 463,000 refugees.

18 June 2012 – Ahead of World Refugee Day, the United Nations refugee agency reported today that a record 800,000 people were forced to flee across borders last year, more than at any time since 2000.

The new refugees are part of a total of 4.3 million people who were newly displaced last year, owing to a string of major humanitarian crises that began in late 2010 in Côte d'Ivoire, and followed by others in Libya, Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere, according to Global Trends 2011, issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“2011 saw suffering on an epic scale. For so many lives to have been thrown into turmoil over so short a space of time means enormous personal cost for all who were affected,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, in a news release.

“We can be grateful only that the international system for protecting such people held firm for the most part and that borders stayed open. These are testing times,” he added.

Some 42.5 million people ended 2011 either as refugees (15.2 million), internally displaced (26.4 million) or in the process of seeking asylum (895,000), according to the report, which is UNHCR’s main publication on the state of forced displacement.

At the same time, 2011 saw some 3.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) return home – the highest rate of returns of IDPs in more than a decade.

Among the “worrying” trends noted in the report, UNHCR said that forced displacement is affecting larger numbers of people globally, with the annual level exceeding 42 million people for each of the last five years.

Another is that a person who becomes a refugee is likely to remain as one for many years – often stuck in a camp or living precariously in an urban location. Of the 10.4 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, almost three quarters (7.1 million) have been in exile for at least five years while awaiting a solution.

Overall, Afghanistan remains the biggest producer of refugees (2.7 million), followed by Iraq (1.4 million), Somalia (1.1 million), Sudan (500,000) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (491,000).

Among industrialized countries, Germany ranks as the largest hosting country with 571,700 refugees. South Africa, meanwhile, was the largest recipient of individual asylum applications (107,000), a status it has held for the past four years.

While UNHCR’s original mandate was to help refugees, its work over the past six decades has grown to include helping many of the world’s IDPs and those who are stateless – those lacking recognized citizenship and the human rights that accompany this.

The report notes that only 64 governments provided data on stateless people, meaning that UNHCR was able to capture numbers for only around a quarter of the estimated 12 million stateless people worldwide.

World Refugee Day falls on Wednesday, 20 June. The theme for this year’s observance is “Refugees have no choice. You do.” and focuses on the tough choices facing refugees, helping the public to empathize with, and understand, their dilemma.