Tag Archives: dreams

Their dreams need to be shared.


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. 

A giant avocado found at JRS (note to self: start taking more pictures).

Peace n’ blessings!

2-Refugee Experience: Alvin

Alvin and some friends and I

While at Jesuit Refugee Service in Kampala, I befriended a refugee named Alvin. This is a summary of a thirty minute conversation I had with him. His story is the first peek I had into the troughs of being a refugee.

Alvin is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He and his family became refugees when a militia killed his father and began looking for the rest of his family. They had to flee. He got to JRS because of his mom. She heard about it from a friend and had to choose one of her children to send there. She chose Alvin. The rest of his family remains at a refugee camp in East Uganda. He has to do his best here and learn as much as he can so that he can help his family. His family gets maize and beans once a month and that isn’t enough, but at least it allows them to sleep in peace.

His father was an airplane engineer. Alvin had been to the airport when he was three, and his father showed him the planes there. Ever since then, he’s had the dream to be a pilot. Right now, he is learning hair styling just to get by. It isn’t his passion, but he has to do it so he can help his family. He was going to take the English course JRS offered, but it would take one year to complete which is too long. Also, he was going to take computer classes, but his eyes are bad. Even when he completes the program, he isn’t confident he will find a job. Why would a Ugandan give a stranger a job? He wished to get a sponsorship to the US, so he can become a pilot. He thinks people can become whatever they want there.

He doesn’t think things will get better in the future. He can’t go back to his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo because the militia will kill him. He thinks it is the leaders that are the problem. They enrich themselves and send their kids far away for education. They don’t care about the people. Their actions have created a lost generation, his generation.

He prays a lot to God to help him. That God will help all the refugees.

Standing in Solidarity

I took this photo at the beginning of our journey along the migrant trail.
I took this photo at the beginning of our journey along the migrant trail. Our journey was only two miles long, 1/1000 of Josseline’s trip from El Salvador.

On Saturday, our group ventured out early in the morning to set out on a desert hike to experience what the migrant goes through. The only thing I was sure of was that it was earlier than I was used to and the road to get there was barely even a road.
Our tour guide’s name was John, a crunchy granola looking fellow with long, white hair. His quirky character and love for all humanity is probably what stuck out to me the most. He took us across grasslands, up and down hills, through ravines, along both beaten and unbeaten paths. I fell within the first 15 minutes and tried to catch myself.  My hands landed on some rugged rocks and got pretty scratched up.

As we were walking, I tried to listen to what John was telling us. We were crossing over from a cattle trail to a migrant trail when he told us that we were part of the story now, that this wasn’t just a migrant story. That struck a chord with me. Up until then, I always saw it as their story, their struggles, their lives. But it’s the story of the human race, including all of our struggles and our dreams.

A photograph of my grandmother at age 19. This was taken outside of her university where she learned how to be a teacher.
A photograph of my grandmother at age 19. This was taken outside of her university where she learned how to be a teacher.

Above is a photo of Isabel Navasca Corpuz, also known as my Lola (Grandma in Tagalog). She was born on July 7, 1927 in Manilla, Philippines.

During WWII, she lived in a house with five other families on a farm in a rural area. She had just become a teenager but she was prohibited from going anywhere public by herself. Whenever she did go out, she had to disguise herself in old woman clothes so that the Japanese would not capture her and rape her.

When the war was over, my Lola finished her college education. She met and fell in love with Raymundo Corpuz and together they bore two sons. However, they saw that the Philippines was not the best place for them to raise their sons. Like many immigrants, they faced oppression in the country that they happened to be born in. With prayers tucked into their pockets, they left whatever material things they had behind in hope for a brighter future. They found refuge in this country that I call my own, America, the land of the free.

Almost a half of a century later, Lola has five grandchildren. Both of her sons have pursued higher education and have been able to provide for their own families.

This is a picture that was on Josseline's memorial card.
This is a picture that was on Josseline’s memorial card.

Above is a picture of Josseline Jamileth Hernandez Quiteros. She was born on September 15, 1993 in El Salvador. When she was young, her parents left of the United States in order to make more money to support their family. Both came into the country illegally and had been working in the shadows. Meanwhile, Josseline was in charge of taking care of her younger brother. Eventually, her mother, Sonia, had made enough money to hire a guide to take both of her children all the way from El Salvador to Los Angeles.

Josseline, 14,  and her brother, 10, went with other trusted adults to travel over 2,000 miles; jumping walls, hiking up and down the mountains, and trekking through the desert. They only brought with them the clothes on their backs. Josseline chose a pair of jeans and some sweatpants that had “Hollywood” bedazzled on the bottom. She planned to wear them when she arrived to the land of the famous.

They hid from Mexico’s national police as well as the United States Border Patrol. Just after they had crossed the US/Mexican border, Josseline started to get sick. The rest of the group were on a time crunch. They needed to be at a certain location where they would be picked up and time was running out. Josseline could barely walk. She encouraged the group to go on without her. Her brother cried and refused to leave his main caretaker. She encouraged him and told him to tell their mother where she was and to send help the second that he was able to.

Her first nights alone in the desert were spent in the freezing cold. She had on two jackets and two pairs of pants, but that still wasn’t enough to beat the 29 degree weather.

Three weeks later, members of No More Deaths were hiking the migrant trails to leave out jugs of water and canned goods for migrants. They stumbled upon the small body of a girl whose dreams were cut short. A memorial was held at the site where Josseline’s body was found. However, her family was not able to make it in fear of being arrested and deported back to Mexico.

I will be a part of my grandchildren’s history, like Lola was a part of mine. I grew up asking her stories of her hardships, of her hopes for her family, of her American Dream. When my grandchildren ask me questions, I want them to be as proud of my accomplishments as I am of Lola’s. I want them to learn from my courage and my determination for social justice. I want them to know how much I would sacrifice for our family and for our brothers and sisters around the world. I’m lucky that my Lola’s experience was not as difficult at Josseline’s and I have my life to show for it. I can only hope to do my 4 foot 6 inch grandmother justice.

Migration isn’t an us versus them issue, this is a we issue. When we see them as people with families and friends, with fears and dreams, then we will be able to stand in solidarity with them and fight for change.