The Beauty of Dadaab

Posted on
Mon, 11/28/2011

The Beauty of Dadaab

Photo: Sabine Wilke/CARE

This week my colleague, Niki Clark, will be joining us as a guest blogger.  Niki is the emergency media officer who worked directly for six weeks in the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya.  She shares her observances behind the daunting statistics you hear about in the media.  Her insight speaks of the beauty and the vibrant life of Dadaab -- Rick

One of my "duties" as an emergency media officer here in the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, is to share my perspective of CARE's work through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and I often Twitter-follow recent Dadaab visitors so that I can in turn share their perspectives of the camps.

One such recent visitor was Somali-born, Canadian-raised rapper K’naan. Although K'naan found worldwide fame only recently through his 2010 FIFA World Cup theme-song Wavin' Flag, he has been amassing fans for more than 10 years.  After K'naan visited Dadaab with a World Food Programme-CARE joint delegation, @Knaan became my latest Twitter-follow.

I have been struggling with the two very different Dadaabs I have experienced. Then, I read a tweet that perfectly captured what I have been trying to express:

"Somalia is overflowing with beauty." @knaan reflects on his Somalia, not necessarily the one you see on the nightly news.

In midst of the strife and turmoil, hidden between the heartache and uncertainty, and tucked away behind the dire poverty and desperation of a homeless people, the people of Somalia – the refugees of Dadaabb – are an overflowing vessel of beauty. Because the unexpected truth is: there is beauty everywhere, even in the world's largest refugee camp, where I see: 

Photo: Sabine Wilke/CARE

The joy of a widow's eyes and the firm grip of her hand as I tell her about CARE's livelihoods program; that she too could learn how to operate a business of her own, to educate and feed her four young children. 

The pride and confidence of a recent graduate of CARE's Community Tailoring School as she displays the bags she made with her own two hands, which she sells in the Hagadera market, allowing her some independence in a culture of dependency.

The toothless grin on a 5-day-old baby girl, born on the journey from Somalia, her 10 perfect fingers, 10 perfect toes.

The exhilarating sight of 20 competitive women and men playing together on the basketball court.  The participants of the Sports and Youth Development Unit cheer so loudly for their teammates— you’d never realize that half of which are hearing impaired.

As a native of Somalia, K'naan is able to see something that most people in the world will never see: the beauty of Somalia and its people. Dadaab may never make Travel & Leisure's "Top 10 Most Beautiful Places' but the people of Somalia – who are the refugees of Dadaab – are some of the most beautiful people in the world.  It’s the beauty and resilience of the Somali people that makes Dadaab a vibrant vessel of hope in which K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag” accurately captures…

“When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag…”



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