While in Kakuma, I teach journal-writing and photography workshops that enable students to develop and exercise their own voices as storytellers. In 2016, I worked with a group of young journalists who had completed a year-long journalism and photography course with FilmAid. Their devotion to exposing the casualties of living as a refugee inspired me to help them establish their own studio to continue their work.
In February 2017, Dream Studio was established with the help and encouragement of FilmAid and Samuel Otieno. The partners are Dhieu, Elijah, Maya, Istarlin. Through funds the partners managed to save, along with donations, we were able to rent studio space and fill it with camera and lighting equipment, printers, furniture, and other needed supplies.
Offering portraits to the local community and photography and videography services to the NGO’s has given them the first chance in their lives to become self-sufficient. Half of their time is focused on the commercial end. The other half is devoted to teaching photography to children in schools and creating community events in which they provide a place for dialog about issues of concern, such as women’s rights, female genital mutilation, drug & alcohol abuse, and police corruption.
LOST BOYS AND GIRLS
Though these Lost Boys & Girls have been forced to live in a refugee camp since they were children, the brutal reality is that they will never leave. Their home country continues to be consumed by war and violence, and considering only .089% of refugees world-wide ever have the chance for resettlement, their chance to find independence is nil. I’m dedicated to helping to empower them so they may find a way to live a life of dignity.
Through the funds raised from my Limited Edition Handmade Book, children of the Lost Boys & Girls will be given back packs filled with school supplies. A library will be established with text books, non-fiction, and novels in both Swahili and English which will be accessible to the entire South Sudanese community within the camp.
A micro-loan program is also being established for those who complete a course and develop a business plan and budget for businesses that give back to their community, such as a co-op farm, day care center, or art center.