Somalian refugees in the Kakuma camp

To The Kakuma Refugee Camp…

This blog post is part of a series from our founder Dut Bior’s trip to Kenya and Uganda in October 2012.

This morning we woke up at 4am and met our driver in front of our hotel at 430am. We
headed to the airport and, after some trouble finding the correct terminal for our UN flight
to Logichoggio, finally boarded our plane about 7am.

We arrived at the small airport about an hour later. Next, we waited around with the other
30 (or so) passengers. There was supposed to be an armed escort traveling with our bus
to Kakuma. When the bus and escort vehicles arrived we all piled in and began the drive
across Turkana district.

We pulled into Kakuma around 930am but it was very strange for me because I didn’t
recognize that part of the camp at all. I was told later that it had been build after I left in

We were to stay in the LWF (Lutheran World Foundation) area, just outside the actual
refugee camp where I lived for so many years. We were shown to our individual cabins and
given a late breakfast in the cafeteria; I immediately began to recognize faces and found
people who had been at Kakuma from before I had left. It was surreal to begin seeing old
friends and acquaintances again.

A short meeting had been called on our behalf with a few of the camp’s directors. They
briefed us on the situation in the camp (regarding education, security, activities, etc) and
I had an opportunity to speak with the director about potential employment for Malaak
in Kakuma or at the LWF camp in South Sudan. He had good suggestions for me and also
wrote a very positive letter of recommendation which I think will help Malaak out a lot.

It was during that short meeting that I first began to sense some of the contrast from
my former life in Kakuma to my new one in the United States. It was so hot in the little
room we met in, with no AC and no circulating air. And, despite the air outside being
considerably cooler than a hot, hot Kakuma summer, I was sweating a lot and felt
extremely uncomfortable.

After the meeting we jumped into the vehicle that had been arranged for us and entered the
camp. Seeing the shops and people inside flooded my mind and heart with remembrance. It
was very emotional for me to be back.

Our first stop was my old secondary school (“high school,” in the US). We spoke with the
principle there, who was one of my old teachers. She allowed us to interview her and, after
that, the film crew continued interviewing other teachers and students.

While they were capturing videos of these interviews I wandered off to my old community.
I ran as fast as I could to get there quickly and was really happy to meet many people from
my old Kakuma family. One of the kids I met, who I had not known from my days living
in the camp, told me he had just finished high school but that there was nothing else for
him to do, nowhere for him to go. My heart melted inside as my eyes flooded with tears. I
wanted more than anything to help him continue his education and move beyond that life
in Kakuma.

Later in the day, we drove together to my old community in the camp. It had been renamed
but it looked and sounded exactly as I had remembered it. There were children in the dirt
road where we stopped. They surrounded us and were saying all kinds of things to me.
Seeing them all there, so young and so much like I once was, was almost too much for me
to handle. The songs in the distance were sung by members of my old neighbor-family. As
I soaked all of this in, my heart nearly leapt from my chest. Back in my old home, Kakuma,
an intense realization of where I had come from and what I had now become made me
feel someway I had never felt before. It was all I had expected it would be and much, much

Back at the LWF camp we ate and went back to our respective rooms to sleep. Mine had
no working fan or air conditioning and I found it hard to sleep. I was tired and wanted to
prove to myself that I could survive as I once had in this place, so I endured the discomfort
and forced myself to try to sleep. After an hour or more I realized I wouldn’t be able to fall
asleep in those conditions. I found someone from the camp staff to help make my room
more comfortable and, afterwards, finally I was able to sleep….

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