FilmAid Brightens Lives of Refugees

The org founded to entertain, now educates and trains those it serves


Dadaab Stories is the latest project from FilmAid, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that uses film to help struggling communities. The interactive website helps members of the world’s largest refugee camp, on the border of Somalia in Northern Kenya, share their stories through video, poetry, music, community journalism and personal blogs.

“Our goal with Dadaab Stories is to help open up a window between global audiences and the extraordinary and inspiring community in Dadaab, people we’re privileged to work with every day,” says FilmAid executive director Liz Manne.

FilmAid was created in 1999 by Caroline Baron to help those who fled to Macedonia from their homes in Kosovo during the war. With the hundreds of thousands of refugees suffering from boredom and hopelessness, the org delivered movies to the refugee camps.

“It came from a desire to want to help those in trouble,” Baron says. “We would hold outdoor screenings — feed the imagination and the soul.”

In 2012, more than 2,800 educational screenings and video-based workshops took place in refugee camps.

FilmAid is a five-time recipient of institutional grants from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, most recently receiving support in 2012. With the additional support of the United Nations, FilmAid expanded its reach into Afghanistan and Africa.

The org also trains members of the populations it serves in video and filmmaking. It works with NGOs to bring health information to people via short films. In 2012, the org reached more than 260,000 people in Kenya through educational screenings and video-based workshops covering topics including malaria, maternal health, cholera and HIV-prevention, drug and alcohol abuse, rape and violence against women, democracy and civic rights.

It also instills the hope brought out in achievement. “One woman, who was shy because she wasn’t used to being given these opportunities, acted in one of the films,” Baron says. “She was awarded with a best actress prize at a ceremony in the camp. After going through the process, she was completely changed and (became) articulate and confident.”