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Viola commented on A CREATIVE HUB IN KAKUMA REFUGEE CAMP

more info about USANII LAB and some more pics here: https://www.facebook.com/UsaniiLab/

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Viola commented on Engage Refugees

Dear Veronica (I'm so sorry! I didn't recognize before that you typed your full name up there),
thanks for your response and the links. I totally agree with what you wrote. I think it's not just lack of opportunities which makes it difficult to step out of poverty, sometimes opportunities are even there but they can't be taken because of what you mentioned: racism, crime, ... I think it's one of the key problems in development aid and projects: as an outsider you will never understand what exactly all problems are, even if I stay in the same environment for a while and observe. I can get an idea, but still it's not the same. And that's why I think your post is so great: the only expert is the one who is affected. It doesn't make any sense to do a refugee project without including experts: the refugees.

With my personal experience of seeing what NGO's are doing I was often frustrated. I thought it could be done very differently. I tried to start something myself, but not really a NGO. With the help of my Kenyan friends I started a Media project, some kind of Art and Design school in the Eastlands of Nairobi called USANII LAB. It went really well and we keep on going, but I also got to understand in which trap you can walk easily. I always complained that very often the ones profiting most of all the deveoplment aid projects are the Europeans doing them. They can tell whatever they want back home, people will believe it.

Edlyne and Chemose, two friends of mine from USANII LAB and me, we got invited to a conference in the USA. We were all so excited! Especially Edlyne and Chemose, they are both living in the Eastlands of Nairobi, Chemose is resident of the Mathare slum. But then I was the only one going, Edlyne had passport issues and Chemose did't get the visa, although being invited by Harvard university. The embassy just said: No. And there I was in the USA. I was all I never wanted to be: the one telling the story of our USANII LAB project, a white person telling about a project in Africa. And I was the one profiting most.

At the same time we won a small Design challenge with USANII LAB, we got 700 dollars. And Chemose, the one who missed the great opportunity to go to the conference at Harvard had the idea to use this money for a project in the Kakuma refugee camp. His family is originally from that area. The whole USANII team thought it's a cool idea and decided to do it. And I was just impressed: someone from a slum is going to a refugee camp to conduct workshops there, they could have done evrything with the money, even a party, but they decided to use it for that. The money was enough that two of them, Chemose and Cyrus, could go for two weeks to the Kakuma refugee camp to do a pilot project there. Ever since they are in contact with their friends in the camp and want to return to do more workshops.
That's what we are planning now and I hope we make it happen.

What I mentioned before: I never wanted and want to be the white smartass who knows how to solve issues in Africa. I clearly don't know! No matter how many years I spent there and will spend there I will be still an outsider. But I also don't think it makes sense to do nothing just because I'm European. The world is global, for me it's a lot of fun to work with my friends in Kenya or South Africa and if we manage to make an impact that's cool. I think we all have to mix and mingle, see and live in other places (especially Europe and the US shouldn't close their doors for people from other continents!), exchange ideas, academics should listen to those without academic background and learn from each other.

And yes, I'm very interested to keep in contact and a partnership! :)

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Viola commented on Engage Refugees

Dear Fynn, I think you are very right in what you are saying! I never experienced being a refugee, I come from Germany and got the chance to visit and work with several NGO's in Kenya and South Africa. I never worked in particular in a refugee project but with people from slums or "humbled" backgrounds. I think it is exactly the way you say: the ones who do the decissions are often expats who might have read a lot of reports but forget to equally involve those who should be the ones who are benefiting. I also interned at the UN and saw this happening many times, very often they even try to involve the affected communities but they are not treated as equal partners. I met so many young people in Nairobi coming from slums who could really make a difference if some policy makers would listen to them and would work together on ideas. I always wonder how much money is used by the UN and in the NGO business but there are still people in the world lacking the basics. Thanks for your post :) I hope many will read it