Penn in Kenya, Day 16-17

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On the last day in Kakuma: Jean Lee, Sonari Chidi, Laurel Jaffe, Jennifer Chen, Madeline Overmoyer, Melisande McLaughlin, Nicholas Escobar, Jesse Raines, Michael Schwartz, Melissa Beatriz Skolnick.

July 22-23, 2017

Post by Jesse Raines, Class of 2018, an African Studies major from Reno, Nev.

Today was our last full day in Kakuma with our FilmAid peers. The day started slowly for most of us because of the excitement we experienced the night before. I personally think everyone in the group was so moved by the kareoke duet that Laurel and I sang the night before that they just needed a few extra hours in the morning to process the powerful performance.

After breakfast, the group was taken on a walking tour by Henry to one of Kakuma’s markets. Kakuma rarely disappoints and this morning was not an exception. Speaking Swahili is an advantage, because it allows me to engage the people who don’t always get to speak to Westerners. I talked to two kids from South Sudan who came to the camp together three years ago and were trying to learn English by watching YouTube videos. Mama Jean provided some quick first aid to two Ethiopian gentlemen that crashed their motorcycle about ten feet from us. Another interesting character was the self-identified best tailor in Kakuma. He dressed in a light colored collared shirt with black slacks and styled his hair in a way that would have ensured his entrance into Studio 54, circa 1976. He called himself Mzungu Refugee, mzungu in Swahili means white or Western person. We finished our walking tour in a local coffee shop before we headed back for lunch.

The remaining day was spent wrapping up our projects and editing. Jean and I conducted a last minute interview with Charity, the manager of FilmAid’s Kakuma operation, about livelihood. Jennifer “the editor” performed her magic on my group’s projects and created two shorts that are both interesting and engaging, truly proud of that girl. Every group finished their project and by 5:00 pm our group, along with our FilmAid peers, had created four informative and engaging shorts that future residents will use to learn about services that will help ensure their success.

Three of the FilmAid alumni approached me and in Swahili asked about my military experience. We exchanged stories about conflict, them in the South Sudanese Liberation Army and me in the US Army. Different countries and different wars, but the stories were similar. South Sudan, Somalia, or Afghanistan, it does not really matter, war never changes. They then talked about their inspiring music and rap projects. They talked about how they were unable to post on to YouTube because their videos included bits of copyrighted music and because they did not have instruments or pricey equipment they could not create their own. I called Nicholas over and he talked to them about Garage Band. This reenforced the importance of FilmAid’s program and livelihood training here. In a matter of minutes, Nicholas told them how with a free program on a Mac computer, they could create their own music and hopefully generate income.

After we wrapped our projects at FilmAid we drove to a riverbed around Kakuma to take some 360 videos of the sunset. After placing the camera, we walked ashore and joked around with local Turkanans while the sun retired for the evening. We retrieved the camera and said our goodbyes as the group headed back for dinner.

After shooting the sunset we returned to the UN compound for our last dinner here. Conversations leaned more toward reflection on the last few weeks. To each of us this experience has meant something different. The world is a lot larger and more complicated than most people realize and it is not until a person experiences a place like Kakuma that it is always apparent. The night ended with about half the group playing a round of pool and laughing before we all headed to our rooms for our last night in Kakuma.

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