Penn in Kenya, Day 10


Nicholas Escobar demonstrates how to compose music for film.

Sunday, July 16th

Post by Laurel Jaffe, Class of 2020, a Cinema and Media Studies and Women’s Studies double major, from New Canaan, Conn. 

Although Sunday may be called the day of rest for some, we were up, taking on the day at a early start!

Today we return to the FilmAid school to give our presentations to a group of students who who live in the Kakuma Refugee Camp as opposed to yesterday’s students from the nearby Kalobeyei Settlement.

The students we are working with were all born in the refugee camp and have grown up only knowing these conditions. Talking with them, I found it extremely commendable how these students took charge of their own lives and instead of letting themselves become victims of unfortunate civil war, strife, or violence, they empowered themselves through the art of film and education.

Even in the sweltering classrooms, everyone delivered once again inspiring and informative presentations. At the end of his presentation, Sonari asked the students a few questions for his research project on global media’s coverage on refugees. He inquired about what the students thought of the media’s current tone and choice of topic coverage on refugees and if it was an accurate depiction or not? After the group contemplated the question, one student spoke up and turned the tables on us by asking us, Penn students, what our impression of refugees and their life was before vs. now. This led into an open dialogue about the world’s perceptions on refugees and how oftentimes the media only promotes or covers sad, depressing news on the refugees. We all came to an understanding that although it is necessary to show the desolate conditions under which they live, it should also be vital to show the vibrant culture, love, and life that is present in the refugee camps.  

One young man I became friends with was reading a book during the breaks of our long class day. Instead of going out to play or eating a snack outside, this young man continued to read his book, even after having just sat through many hours of class. I asked him what the book was called and he said “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and that it was about financial literacy. I sat back awestruck. I am a student at Penn and even with some of the world’s best economic classes and professors at my disposal, I still have not yet taken an economics class and had a very limited idea on what financial literacy entailed. I was really impressed that even though this man had no money to spend, he still wanted to learn about investment opportunities and the global markets. This is just one example of the drive, determination, and overall genuine interest and love for knowledge that these refugees possess. It is key that when telling the story of refugees and their situation that the media does not leave out the vivacious energy, strength, and perseverance that each and every one of the refugees we met today displays.

In any complicated, hard, and difficult situation, having courage to pursue knowledge and the hope to expose the truth is a characteristic that will prove to be a shining light for one’s future. As I walked around the Kakuma refugee camp, I noticed many different slogans containing the word “hope”. FilmAid’s own slogan for example is “Projecting hope. Changing lives.” Being here, talking with and spending so much time with these refugees, I have seen first hand this positive spirit and hope embodied in the refugees themselves. The FilmAid students have proven that these optimistic characteristics transform into into real action and ambition. I am so excited, along with the rest of the Penn students, to start working closely and individually with the FilmAid students and begin filming our documentary projects tomorrow. Writing this blog post on the porch of my compound, staring up at the dark sky showered with bright, glimmering stars, I am able to really appreciate my surroundings and the beauty of this place. We have only been here a few nights and yet I am already overcome with love and a sense of wholeness from the nature and communities surrounding us.



2 thoughts on “Penn in Kenya, Day 10

  1. This is a very moving blog entry, Laurel. Already, I’m thinking about refuge camps in a different way. I cannot wait to see the documentary projects your students make.


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