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VICE: Between Opportunity and Frustration As a Refugee In Uganda
A folk tale made famous by the late Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai tells of a forest fire that causes all the animals to flee. As they stare helplessly at the huge flames, only the hummingbird sets to work, carrying tiny beakfuls of water back and forth.
"What's the point?," the others ask. The hummingbird pauses just long enough to reply: "I'm doing the best I can!" The story is a favourite of 25-year-old Patrick and his younger brother, who fled five years ago from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the Nakivale refugee settlement in southwest Uganda. The brothers, both artists, ran educational workshops for young people in the settlement, and—until they had to sell their laptop—an animated version of the hummingbird tale was one of the videos they screened. The message is apt: with 115,00 refugees in Nakivale alone, and well over half a million nationwide, the brothers' contribution is minute.
Around the world, some 65 million people—refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people—were driven from their home in 2015, the highest number since records began; developing countries host 86 percent of them. (The six wealthiest nations, representing half the global economy, are home to just 2.1 million.)
Many governments don't allow refugees to seek formal employment; some grant the right to work but effectively prevent it with high permit fees or strict rules that keep refugees in camps. Not in Uganda. Here, refugees—mostly from South Sudan, DRC, Burundi and Somalia—are allowed to move freely, start a business and work for others. Some settle in cities, but most are allocated small plots of land in government-managed settlements, where the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners provide some healthcare and welfare services; they get materials to build basic homes on their plots. The UNHCR, increasingly looking for long-term solutions as conflicts around the world drag on, says the policy could be a model for governments everywhere.
Read more: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/mvk983/between-opportunity-and-frustration
The luxury of leaving
On day 4, we stood in a circle and held hands while Lawrence – fondly nicknamed ‘the Pastor’ – asked that God bless my safe return. It was nearly dark: we’d waited a long time for Okwiri, who’d spent all day with a mechanic after some kids vandalised the friend’s car he’d borrowed to drive us into Dandora.
But there was still time for a prayer. ‘Does it feel like a ritual?’, laughed Okwiri, who seems – either from experience or instinct – to know where the great divides between Africans and Europeans lie. ‘No! It’s nice’, I said – and was glad I didn’t have to lie.
Their enthusiasm to work with me all week was heartening – though given that the chef at my hotel and my taxi driver seemed equally sad to say goodbye I don’t quite take it as a measure of success. Maybe the work they did counts for something, though. Camerawork that cuts off heads and makes you feel dizzy, and interviews that regurgitate clichés – but also surprise close-ups and a few unexpectedly heated discussions.
Read more: https://learningtowalkslowly.wordpress.com/2013/11/24/the-luxury-of-leaving/
My Work Experience
- Currently Freelancing