If there is one thing that can never be under estimated it is peace. People living in peaceful countries are used to the cozy beauty of leading normal lives, doing what they do to earn their living and taking children to school. Not that everyone of these people is in ideal situations anyway because there is still issues like poverty and sickness to deal with but at least unrest and political uncertainty is one big headache that they do not have to deal with.
There are those however, through no fault of their own, have been uprooted from their normal lives in their counties, torn apart from their relatives and their children’s education interrupted. These are refugees who are often victims of wars and feuds that are not theirs to fight. Wars that is almost always as a result of disagreements among the political elites. These are the people we see on the news streaming into foreign countries with bundles on luggage and children in tow. The refugee crisis is something we’re quite familiar with in Kenya where we host nearly 500,000 refugees, most of them being in Daadab Camp in Garissa county. Others are in Kakuma and still others in Nairobi area.
As mentioned in an earlier post, the general public has for the longest time seen the refugee crisis as someone else’s problem to deal with. There’s a new development and you will see in that post that with the launch of the LuquLuqu campaign, you as an individual can help take part in owning this our African problem and helping alleviate it. After all, refugees are just people like you and I. They’re lives with dreams, careers, and talents to develop.
Speaking of talent, one evening last week I attended a most satisfying concert at Alliance Francaise. The concert was under the banner of an initiative dubbed ‘Artists for Refugees’. The initiative was launched by the UNHCR in 2015 with an aim to identify, promote and nurture musical and artistic talents among refugees and asylum seekers. Under this program, refugees are trained to develop skills with an end game of making them self-reliant. All over the walls at Alliance Francaise for example were beautiful pieces of art for sale, all by refugees. Proceeds of the sale of these pieces went to the refugees and that right there is financial empowerment which is a huge step towards self-reliance.
Aside from visual arts, the ‘Artists For Refugees’ initiative whose project leads are Kenyan rapper Octopizzo and editorial cartoonist Victor Ndula also nurtures musical talents. One great success case of this is the compilation album ‘Refugeenius’ that features songs written and produced by refugees. The album has already sold almost 7,000 copies on iTunes, over the counter as well as other online platforms. Yet another success story that is as a direct result of this program is that of Eric Museveni, a refugee from Congo who runs a music school in Kasarani Nairobi. He opened it after receiving training from Octopizzo, and a grant from the Danish Refugee Council which is UNHCR’s livelihood partner. So far Museveni through his Talanta academy has further trained 48 other talented people, including Kenyans!
These are such heart warming stories and above all, they’re testimony to the fact that refugees are not just sitting in camps waiting for handouts. Given an opportunity, they can make something of themselves and even give back to Kenya – the country that has hosted them and given them a home the chance to recoup their lives.