“THEY TOOK MY HOME BUT THEY CAN’T TAKE MY FUTURE” was the theme for the 2010 World Refugee Day (WRD) commemorated around the globe.  In Nairobi AFSC joined UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees), the Kenyan Ministry of Immigration and other organizations to stand in solidarity and honor the stories of people forced to leave their homes and flee to another country. 500,000 refugees from Rwanda, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia and Burundi currently live in Kenya.

A photo exhibition attracted many people to AFSC’s display at World Refugee Day.  The images by Somali youth captured glimpses of their lives in Dadaab Refugee camp after trainings by AFSC in partnership with FilmAid in photography, colleague and film in 2009 and early 2010.  The photos portrayed messages of hope and peace documenting children playing, communities gathering, and spirits overcoming past plights. Two Somali youth participants stood next to their workshops’ products and shared with WRD visitors the underlying themes in their images.

Coexistence between refugees and the host countries can often be a challenge. Children epitomized welcome and acceptance at WRD in Nairobi when a group of youth from Kihumbuini Primary School made up of young Kenyans – the host nation – and a mixed group young refugees, gave a presentation and singing performance.  AFSC also sponsored a complimenting cultural event by Ethiopian refugees who performed a traditional dance.

Refugees displayed their love for their countries and cultures through their presentations at World Refugee Day.  In addition to gratitude expressed to Kenya for hosting them after their escape from violence in their homelands, the refugees passionately shared their desire to someday go back and rebuild their lives and communities.   The Somali presentation highlighted this love of home when the group began by singing the national anthem. Many Somali refugees broke into tears. They were seen standing in respect and quietly wiping their eyes.  This was followed by the reading of an open letter and then ended with singing, poetry recitation and dancing. All the while, the Somalis held their flag visibly for the cameras showing the refugees’ love and dedication for their country – and hope for their future.

Report compiled by Farhiya Abdirahman Hassan and Pamela Chepng’etich young AFSC Voluntary Peace Workers based in Nairobi-Kenya . Both recently joined the American Friends Service Committee and participated during the World Refugee Day.