+
Most Shared

There's little to do in a refugee camp. So these teens picked up an unexpected hobby.

Too many of the 185,000 souls here have given up hope of rebuilding their lives. But these kids are just getting started.

The young boy cradles his head, emitting a low moan as blood drips through his fingers and soaks the soil beneath him.

His friend uneasily makes his way through the shrubs to examine the injury he has caused. Upon seeing the blood, he gasps theatrically and stumbles backwards. Frightened, he tucks a slingshot into his trousers and runs away.

“Cut!”


Throwing his arms in the air in exasperation, a lanky 20-year-old yells out and everything stops.

Fidele is directing this film, and he isn’t happy. He wants more emotion from his cast, more feeling.

Regan, the boy with the bleeding head, gets up from the floor and wipes some of the sticky red liquid from his cheek, a smile spreading across his face. The kid in the yellow T-shirt, Pasyan, saunters back into the shade beneath the trees. They watch as Fidele re-enacts the scene, crouching down, holding his head, moaning dramatically, showing them how it’s done.

All photos courtesy of Rachel Reed, used with permission.

All of the kids in the film’s cast and crew live in a remote refugee camp in Northern Kenya.

They are waiting, along with 185,000 others, to be resettled in the U.S., Australia, Canada, or Europe, or for peace and security to return to their respective counties so that they can go home.

The camp, a sprawling collection of tents and crumbling mud and corrugated iron huts, is not an easy place to live. There is little to do. In the morning, most kids cram into airless classrooms with up to 200 other children. After school, some help their families by going to fetch water or firewood.

Mostly, children idle away their time, hanging out in the narrow alleyways between huts, finding creative ways to play with whatever they get their hands on. Some have never known life outside the camp; many will wait years or even decades to be resettled.

In 2011, a 19-year-old Congolese refugee named Batakane Jean-Michel returned to the camp after studying at the East African Media Institute in Nairobi.

Jean-Michel was determined to put his new skills to use and provide something for the kids living in the camp.

“I moved back after realizing that a multitude of people like myself were anxious to learn,” says Jean-Michel. Using his pocket money, a small camcorder, and a laptop he was given as a gift, Jean-Michel started Season of the Time Media Productions (STMP), running yearlong courses for children who wanted to learn about film production.

Tucked behind a small Congolese café inside the camp, STMP’s office is a tiny, unassuming room. A piece of paper hanging on the outside wall reads: “Notice! Notice! Notice! STMP Studio. Kick out boredom, idleness, and cluelessness. Get busy and know more on what’s popping in the outside world.”

Inside, kids take turns using a computer with a broken screen, teaching themselves how to use programs like Photoshop and Fruity Loops, a music production program. The power cuts out frequently, but when it does, they just wait, knowing that sooner or later it will start up again. Then they go out around the camp and make their own films and music videos.

As STMP’s assistant cameraman, 15-year-old Kito is no stranger to the stop-and-start pace of film production.

He has been with STMP since 2013, when a friend connected him to Jean-Michel. Kito arrived in Kakuma five years ago, after his family fled violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“When I first arrived, I used to stay at home from morning until evening,” recalls Kito. “I was so bored.” But then Kito heard about STMP and started developing his skills as a camera operator.

In addition to making movies and music videos, Kito and the other children earn a little money by filming weddings, birthday parties, and other celebrations for camp residents who have no other way to immortalize previous memories. They charge around $10 an hour, and shoots can go on for about six or seven hours.

50% of the proceeds are put aside to fund STMP’s productions, while the remaining half is shared among the crew members.

“At the end, the amount of money we get is very small for the work we do. It is just pocket money to buy basic things,” says Fidele. “But we do it to help the communities.”

In December, children sign up for the yearlong course led by Fidele.

Three times a week, under the shade of acacia trees, the older kids — Fidele, Kito, and 17-year-old cameraman Olivier — take turns teaching film and music skills to younger children. For them, it's a way of giving back what they were taught by Jean-Michel, who, after eight years in the camp, resettled in Australia last year and now raises money for STMP from afar.

“He showed me that I can do whatever I want in my life,” explains Olivier, who says he always wanted to be a filmmaker. “Now I try to help some other kids so they can be even better than me.”

Throughout the year, the kids learn to use a computer, shoot and edit short movies, and produce music. At the end of the course, children pair off and produce their own movies, and the older kids name one as the best of the year.

Most of the children have never held a camera in their hand or used a computer before joining STMP, but many now dream of becoming editors, scriptwriters, and producers.

Back on set, Fidele and Paluku, a 14-year-old scriptwriter, carry a bag full of  old shirts, hats, and frilly dresses to use as costumes.

10-year-old Angelina gets out her tools — a little mirror, a powder and eye shadow palette, a stick of lipstick, and an eye pencil — as her fellow makeup artist Leticia preps beside her. Olivier and Kito check that batteries are charged and the camcorder is working. It stops a few times, but a little knock brings it back to life.

Followed by several curious children, STMP’s cast and crew of 10 walk through the narrow, dusty alleyways between huts and into a small wooded area. They set up their tripod, the actors change into costume, and Fidele gives last-minute advice.

Linelle, a 5-year-old actress and the youngest STMP member, guards the area around set, stopping curious children from getting too close and shouting at them when they got too loud.

There is no time for playing around. STMP is at work.

Check out STMP in action:

Meet the Teenagers Who Started a Film Production Studio From T...

NEW: “The power cuts out frequently, but when it does they sit and wait, knowing that sooner or later it will start up again. Then, they go out around the camp and make their own films and music videos.” Read the full story: http://narr.ly/2zHRijE

Posted by Narratively on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This story was originally published on Narratively, a digital publication focused on ordinary people with extraordinary stories, and is reprinted here with permission. Visit Narratively for more stories about Game Changers, Super Subcultures, and Hidden History.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


Being married is like being half of a two-headed monster. It's impossible to avoid regular disagreements when you're bound to another person for the rest of your life. Even the perfect marriage (if there was such a thing) would have its daily frustrations. Funnily enough, most fights aren't caused by big decisions but the simple, day-to-day questions, such as "What do you want for dinner?"; "Are we free Friday night?"; and "What movie do you want to see?"

Here are some hilarious tweets that just about every married couple will understand.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

A man told me gun laws would create more 'soft targets.' He summed up the whole problem.

As far as I know, there are only two places in the world where people living their lives are referred to as 'soft targets.'

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Only in America are kids in classrooms referred to as "soft targets."

On the Fourth of July, a gunman opened fire at a parade in quaint Highland Park, Illinois, killing at least six people, injuring dozens and traumatizing (once again) an entire nation.

My family member who was at the parade was able to flee to safety, but the trauma of what she experienced will linger. For the toddler with the blood-soaked sock, carried to safety by a stranger after being pulled from under his father's bullet-torn body, life will never be the same.

There's a phrase I keep seeing in debates over gun violence, one that I can't seem to shake from my mind. After the Uvalde school shooting, I shared my thoughts on why arming teachers is a bad idea, and a gentleman responded with this brief comment:

"Way to create more soft targets."

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

She bought the perfect wedding dress that went viral on TikTok. It was only $3.75.

Lynch is part of a growing crowd of newlyweds going against the regular wedding tradition of spending loads of money.

Making a priceless memory.

At first glance, one might think that Jillian Lynch wore a traditional (read: expensive) dress to her wedding. After all, it did look glamorous on her. But this 32-year-old bride has a secret superpower: thrifting.

Lynch posted her bargain hunt on TikTok, sharing that she had been perusing thrift shops in Ohio for four days in a row, with the actual ceremony being only a month away. Lynch then displays an elegant ivory-colored Camila Coelho dress. Fitting perfectly, still brand new and with the tags on it, no less.

You can find that exact same dress on Revolve for $220. Lynch bought it for only $3.75.
Keep ReadingShow less