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Kakuma, which means “nowhere” in Swahili is located near the KenyaSudan border. We had to take a 2 hour flight to Lodwar a nearby town and then drive for another 3 hours on one of the roughest roads I have ever tralleveld, to reach this dry, dustycamp which currently serves over 1,50,000 refugees from more than 10 countries.

Good morning everybody! Susan ma’am, Liza miss, teachers and my dear friends, my greetings to you all ! and a big thank you for asking me to stand on this stage after my school days in Rajagiri. Well! If I am thought worthy of addressing you all again, it is only because of the days I spent in this great institution. Teachers, I am so indebted to each and every one of you for giving me my wings to fly, I know there’s a long way to go but I should say, I am still growing and learning each day thanks to you. Dear juniors, the world outside is nothing like school. Yes, you are free as a bird but it’s so easy to get lost out there. So my tip to my little brothers and sisters, dream as high as you can ! Don’t settle for “okay”. So start dreaming now. Set an aim and don’t forget, nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it! Speaking of dreams, what I am about to speak to you is about one such dream which came true for me, an experience which will always remain in my heart and evolve me as a person as I go along in my life.

This happened when I was given an

have ever tralleveld, to reach this dry,

opportunity to spend a few days in a

dustycamp which currently serves over

United Nations Refugee camp In Kenya,

1,50,000 refugees from more than 10

in a remote place called Kakuma. I met

countries. About 50% of the population

some incredible people who touched and

are children like you and me, and majority

moved me so much. It was as though they

of them are orphans. They are orphans

celebrated life every single day!

because their parents were either killed or

Africa-a land of beautiful and fascinating

are missing in conflicts in their countries.

sceneries and abundant natural resources,

The camp is administered by the United

an abode of rich culture and a continent

Nations High Commission for Refugees

where wild and untamed animals reside,

who keep the refugees in the camp till

but sadly there are currently 15 African

the time the conflicts in their countries

countries which are in the curse of

subside and they can go back. But it

civil,ethnic and tribal wars ever since the

has not happened since 1992 when this


camp was started.

People are killed, tortured, their houses

Organisations like the World Food

burnt down, and forced to flee for their lives.

Programme, International Rescue

Many of them seek refuge in camps like

Committee, Lutheran World Federation,


Red Cross, Film Aid , Don Bosco Fathers,

Kakuma, which means “nowhere� in Swahili is located near the Kenya-Sudan border. We had to take a 2 hour flight to Lodwar a nearby town and then drive for another 3 hours on one of the roughest roads I

Windle trust and a few others, work together to run the camp, and serve the refugees who arrive in trucks, register their names and are allotted tents and later plots of land where they build mud houses with tin sheet roofs.

I was fortunate to be with the Salesian Don Bosco Frs. whose mission is headed by the dynamic and loving Fr. Sajan Philip. The work the agencies and their volunteers do in the camp is truly commendable and heartening for it takes a great deal of commitment, sincerity and sacrifice to do what they do. Refugees get food rations every 15 days through a bio metric system. There are schools and poly technique institutions for children and young adults within the camp which cater to their educational needs. It prepares them to survive in the world outside if at all they can return back home. It also equips themwith training to do vocations like carpentry, masonry, tailoring, welding, etc. with which they can earn a living within the camp. During my days there, I could go along with the refugees to their settlements, spend time with them, go to their schools and understand their plight. It was an eye opener for me. Though a refugee finds solace in Kakuma when compared to their war and conflict torn homes,life in the camp is wearisome. I had the opportunity to get acquainted with many children there and what tugged my heart was their happiness. They were all smiling even though they had lost so much already at such a young age. I don’t see such happiness or joy in kids here in our country.The refugees can manage to eat just one meal a day and because the population in the camp is rising, resources are not enough to meet everybody’s requirements. Apart from that, each refugee has a moving life story to say. Many of them fled their homes after witnessing their family get killed right infront of them. One such story was that of Mary from Democratic Republic of Congo. She was raped by rebel armies after which her loving husband was slaughtered right before her. She was then forced to drink her husband’s blood and their house burnt down. She and many other innocent women faced the same dreadful atrocities.

There are more heart touching stories to be shared but we have little time. The refugees in Kakuma and in many war affected parts of the world witnessed their whole world crumble right before them.

These men and women had to live in fear for their

I met Mayen from South Sudan,who was imprisoned

lives every single day back home. They didn’t know if

by the government and sentenced to death after being

they would be alive to see another day. But when I was

falsely accused of being a spy from a rebel group. I

with the refugees I couldn’t help myself from smiling.

listened with shock as he told me how innocent people

Their positivity and cheerfulness amidst great loss and

were killed mercilessly, how he was to be tied in a

suffering made me curious. When I asked them why

sack and drowned in the Nile River like several others

they were so? They told me with a warm smile, “after

who were held prisoners. His escape story amazed

fighting a battle for our lives and seeing our loved

me. A prison guard who he had befriended, helped

ones get killed, we realised that each day is precious

him escape by drowning a sack full rocks instead of

and a blessing! We treasure life and we believe each

Mayen’s body. I was quite speechless after talking to

day should be lived with hope”. It’s only when I heard

Mayen who now lives in Kakuma as a refugee. I have

these words from a refugee that I understood howbig

watched several movies about victims of war and such,

a blessing it is to be alive!

but to meet real victims in person was an extraordinary

There are so many students in the camp who just like


us, have many dreams and goals. They hope to one

There are more heart touching stories to be shared

day make it out of the camp so they can pursue their

but we have little time. The refugees in Kakuma and in

dreams. And for that they work extremely hard. If they

many war affected parts of the world witnessed their

score excellent marks in their exams, they will get

whole world crumble right before them. They suffered

scholarships to study abroad through Windle Trust,

great loss and had to fight for their right to live. They

therefore, the sights we saw of students in school

now live with the hope that one day there will be peace

amazed me. They practically lived every moment, just

in their nations and they can go back home.

to study!

Imagine your own countrymen killing each other. We

We also find refugees with college degrees, who had

have heard of nations going to war with other nations,

well-paid jobs back home, but they were forced to

but not within their own country. That is what one calls

flee because they were considered spies, traitors, and

a civil war. That is a fight which will cease only when


people in those countries become more humane and compassionate, when they see each other as their own brothers and sisters.

Some experiences and memories will light a fire deep inside you and make you see life in a different light.

The world community through the UN and other

Dear brothers and sisters, we truly are blessed

organizations are trying to find peace and provide

and it’s our duty to live with gratitude to God, our

security to the affected people. It may take

parents and well-wishers. Let’s live each day with

time, but the efforts have to continue. The world

passion and determination. We are born into this

community comprises of each one of us. We may

world to leave a mark, leave a footprint. Don’t just

not be able to go and end all wars in the world in

pass through life, make a change, create history,

a day, but we can do something which is more

and transform lives. Because, remember the world

powerful and mightier. Pray to the good Lord to

should know, that YOU WERE HERE!

bring peace in the world. Treat everyone with love, tolerance and respect. Let’s do our bit to support

Thank you

the needy in our society so that the poverty and suffering we see in many parts of the world today

Anna Mathew

do not spread any further.

St. Xaviers College, Mumbai, India.

Some experiences and memories will light a fire deep inside you and make you see life in a different light. My days in Kakuma helped me realize how blessed we all are, we can live each day without fearing for our lives unlike those in war affected nations.

6th June 2014

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