Kenya

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. 

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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. 

 

The Refugee Magazine: The Story of My Life, as a Refugee.

The Refugee Magazine is created by, written for and distributed freely to refugees in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. The magazine publishes original content and covers many subjects relevant to its readers such as reportage on key events, poetry and arts, life stories and practical information.

The Refugee Magazine is now in its fifth year, and continues to entertain, inform, and give a voice to those living in the camps. 

This week, in light of the UN announcement of its campaign to combat statelessness, we are sharing the story of Abdiweli Omar Mohamed. His story details his family's struggles with fleeing civil war, encountering drought, becoming stateless, and life in Dagahaley camp, where Abdiweli later received education and journalism training through FilmAid's Media Arts Training program.

 

'The Story of My Life, as a Refugee' by Abdiweli Omar Mohamed

Featured in The Refugee, Dadaab Edition No. 2, 2014.  

At the beginning of the fall of President Siyad Bare’s regime in 1990, I was still unable to differentiate between war and peace – I was two years old.

I was the second last born in my family, with two elder brothers. When the civil war broke out, people started fleeing towards different parts of the country in fear for their lives, but for my family, we had no other option but to go where my father was – in the bushes with our countless cattle and goats. So my mother arranged for our journey with the help of my elder brothers. They packed all our belongings and mounted them on our donkey carts. Then the journey began, early the following day. In the town, people had cars and lorries, all packed up; while some were walking, with their luggage on their backs.

After moving for six hours, we arrived at a place called Latagari where we rested and eventually spent the night. We resumed our journey the following morning. At the back where we came from we could still hear heavy gunshot sounds but we turned a deaf ear. When we arrived at my father’s place, we were all tired and hungry. Although he had heard the news, he was still unsure about fleeing and leaving the animals behind. We stayed there for four years before a harsh drought hit. All our animals died except two thin cows. My father later decided to slaughter one of the cows to help us survive a few more days.

When we ran out of food and the only cow remaining was all the ‘food’ we had. My father made a decision for us to move in search of good pastures, and we would use the cow for survival during our journey. After an unforgettably long walk for days, we arrived at Dagahaley, which now looks very different. Here, we met some of our relatives, neighbours and many other people we knew back in Somalia.

It took three years for us to be registered as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The three years not being recognized by UNHCR were dreadful. Even though we could access other social amenities such as water and health care, we did not receive food and had to survive on little offerings by the relatives and friends we knew.

After registration, my father
took us to school. We enrolled at Central Primary School in Dagahaley, where pupils were taught under a tree. When they reached class seven, my two elder brothers scarpered and went back to Somalia without notifying my parents or anyone. I was in class five then and was also tempted to drop out of school like my brothers, but my friend Ayub Omar advised me not to, telling me to look into the future and what I wanted in life.

Years later, I sat for the K.C.P.E (Certificate of Primary Education) national exams where I managed to attain 283 marks out of the possible 500. After this I joined Dagahaley Secondary School. Being in form one was a joyous moment for me. Three years later I finished my high school, achieving a decent grade.

Then I saw an opportunity to explore my love for writing through FilmAid’s Journalism Training Program. My trainer, Mr. Paul Odongo, has been helpful in parting skills to help build my future as a journalist, and the sub-editor Mr. Ali Sahal for guidance.

My parents have always accorded me great support and the chance to make my own deci- sions. My brothers are doing well in Somalia; one is married and has children.

Living in the camp is one of the greatest gifts of my life. For in this camp I have lived safely and received education. However, Somalia is my home and I hope to go back some day, but not just yet.

 

Sandbox #5 - The Trailer

FilmAid’s Sandbox blog series is proud to present the official Sandbox trailer.  This unique six-part drama series is based in the world’s largest refugee camp - Dadaab in North-Eastern Kenya and explores the lives of the refugees who live there. Sandbox sets out to illustrate the hardships and events that take place in refugee camps whilst addressing health and social issues as well as entertaining the masses.

The trailer offers hints to the drama that unfolds throughout the six episodes. As our previous blog posts examined, FilmAid's research and learning team researched and pre-tested the story lines and the scripts to ensure that important issues were portrayed accurately, such as conflict resolutions, early marriage and gender-based violence (GBV). As the entire series was filmed in Dadaab, with a significant portion of cast and crew living there as refugees, there were high expectations to produce content that was culturally appropriate and relevant.

We hope you are as excited about the trailer as we are and have enjoyed following our blog series. We look forward to announcing the launch of The Sandbox series that will take place in Nairobi, Kenya and Dadaab refugee camp in the coming months.

 If you missed our previous blog posts on the SandBox then you can revisit them on the Stories page on our website. Stay tuned for more updates on the SandBox series and the launch on our TwitterFacebook, and Instagram pages.

If you’re 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, 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.

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.

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. 

 

SandBox #3: One-on-One with Ledama Sampele, First Assistant Direct

We sat down with Ledama Sampele, a Kenyan filmmaker and the Assistant Director (AD) of FilmAid’s SandBox series, a drama series that explores the lives of refugees in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab. 

The Role of a First Assistant Director

 The First Assistant Director is the Director's right hand person, taking responsibility for a number of important practicalities so that the Director is free to concentrate on the creative process.  During pre-production, the First AD breaks down the script into a shot-by-shot storyboard, they also work with the Director to determine the shoot order, and how long each scene will take to film. They draw up the overall shooting schedule for the filming period.  Once the film is in production, they are in charge of making sure that every aspect of the shoot keeps to this schedule.

What was it like working as the First AD for FilmAid’s SandBox series?

In SandBox, which was shot in Dadaab in early 2014, Ledama Sampele was the First Assistant Director and it seems like he was extremely happy to get this opportunity; “I have always wanted to be an AD for as long as I can remember. This has always been my dream job.” 

Having worked on productions like Makutano JunctionHigher Learning, Changes and Nairobi Half-Life, Ledama brings experience and expertise to the SandBox production. The students in Dadaab’s Filmmaker Training Program were given a real opportunity to learn from his throughout this experience.  

“Every job has its own fair share of challenges and perks.”

During the production of SandBox, the hot and dry climate of sandy Dadaab was perhaps the biggest challenge, which took Ledama some adjusting to. On top of this, our First AD, had to be patient because of the number of rehearsals. Additionally, since this was a single-camera shoot, scenes had to be repeated again and again and shot from different angles which obviously made the production process even more complicated. Despite the challenges of working in Dadaab, Ledama clearly found her work rewarding, “FilmAid is doing a great job. Engaging the youth in the Film Training Program here in Dadaab and this experience on the set is a great opportunity to build…the education of the young people. I hope that many other productions arise from this one”.

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 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, you can donate here.