Two full days of shooting done and I feel like I have learned more from these two days than I have in a year at university. (Not necessarily a year I have experienced at Creighton, but more a year of schooling in the United States). The ways that I expected to be uncomfortable have turned out to be the highlights of our time in Uganda so far. After setting up cameras and audio for interviews and having some creative freedom with shooting B-roll, the filming aspects have helped me cope with the hard things we have learned while in Kampala, Uganda. One instance stands out to me, that my uncomfortableness has turned into an instance for reflection and a perspective change.
We have spent the past two days at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Kampala. In a short 72 hours, I have already felt Ugandan hospitality while being at JRS. We have met a wide array of people who have proven to come from all walks of life. A simple question shot me straight into a feeling of uneasiness.
All 12 of us were standing in front of one of the of the English classes, being introduced, at JRS. This classroom had about 30 young adult refugees who are learning English in order to be able to communicate and work in Kampala. The teacher prompted the class by asking, “They are visiting us from America, does anyone have any questions about America?”. One Congolese man stood and asked, “What does Trump say about African refugees?”. I think we all froze a bit, I certainly did. Not that we didn’t know the answer but because we could sense that there was a sense of optimism in the room. His question insinuated that there is somewhat of a desire for some of these refugees to start a new life in America. I have been able to have more conversations, and dive deeper, about how America is perceived by refugees at JRS. The main dream for these people is to be able to go home. Something that simple can be a dream for millions of people. For some, going home is incredibly impossible at the moment. However, the thought crosses some of their minds that America is another option for a dream. America is painted as a place of opportunity and new beginnings. Even if we had a good president right now, this is still not a rational reality for all (or any) of these refugees. That in itself made me question what we are doing in Uganda and how I can cope with the privileges that I have. However, it reminded me that we have a platform. Maybe our documentary will be seen by all of America, maybe it won’t. Who knows. But I do know that stories about people who persevere while suffering spreads fast. And that is important in itself. I can’t think of another time in my life that I have been able to have as much of a first-hand experience as I am right now. That is important and what I am seeing and feeling needs to be shared.
The question from the young man made me feel evasive in their space at first. What were we really going to be able to do for these people? We can’t instill optimism, or promises, by being Americans bringing in our cameras and tripods. And that in itself is a hard, heartbreaking pill to swallow. But I realized that we need to tell everyone we know, about what is going on. And with that, what is really going on.
Their dreams need to be shared. In two days, I already stand in solidarity with their dreams. They deserve to go home.
Peace n’ blessings!