“We were already living in some kind of Hell in this strange place of broken beauty.”
‘I suppose I’m one of those lucky few to have survived the Massacre,’
It was terrible and almost disheartening to listen to all their stories without bursting into tears. The most prominent memory she had was that of her mother giving up everything for them. Since her mother’s death, Todima had become invincible in this paradise of shattered dreams.
‘For so long I have hated this place, until recently when I realized it wasn’t a place to hate but a place to mend broken hearts.’ Getting lost into her mellow voice and the sweetness of this eleven year old girl. I sunk deep into her mind; and somewhere beneath the melody of her words, I found myself trying her shoes.
The cold inside her made me tremble and envious of my own position. Despite hailing from what I had considered a worse background, a while before relating to the stories of these children; I realized that we held so much luck in ourselves for having a home. Yet, Todima and millions of others like her spread in refugee camps across East Africa; were learning to find a home in a place of devastation.
In her eyes, I observed every child’s undying wish. The heart-wrenching need to not only be seen but to be heard. One of the shy boys in the group handed me a drawing. It was a beautiful painting reflecting a woman drawing water from a well. Pulling him closer to hug him ‘thanks’, he whispered close to my ears: ‘I hope it makes sense to you.’
He still looked unsure whether it was good enough but I was completely taken aback by the piece. Taken aback by a piece of art, given to me by a refugee kid, that reminded me even in the face of adversity; one could easily find peace and yearning in art. His name was Brahman.
Brahman, just like his friends had experienced unbelievable hardship. Brahman’s family spiraled into homelessness after the 2014 Bentiu Massacre. His mother, a victim of soldier gang rape succumbed to depression. Brahan hasn’t seen her for two years now. Among his personal collections are hundreds of tiny pieces of art, some mud sculpting, other drawings and a few of them poems. His worst memory is that of his father’s suffering from a mental illness.
‘ In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
― Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life
The harsh realities pieced behind the camps are those of desperate families finding peace and meaning.
In the heart of Ifo Refugee Camp; are millions of families united by the common spirit to one day mend their shattered lives; thousands of them are striving to rise above the fray of physical abuse, psychological torture, drug addiction, poverty, child apprehension and life’s uncertainties.
My wish is they find meaningful lives.
Ifo is among the three refugee camps set up under the flagship of the Dadaab Refugee Complex to increase humanitarian efforts for families facing continued displacement, drought, conflict and instability in Somalia. Mid-May, the Supreme Council Of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) launched a support campaign in a bid to alleviate the suffering of millions of refugee families. You can reach out to their website and see how you can help a child secure their future.