Let Them Be Visible

BE HEARD | Jacqueline Jun Ha

On June 8th, Kenya hosted the first-ever TEDx event to take place at a refugee camp. It was held at the Kakuma camp, one of the largest refugee camps in the world. That day, speakers, such as the famous American-Somali supermodel Halima Aden, were given a platform to tell their stories. Aden, who grew up in the Kakuma camp, participated to inspire refugees who may feel stuck in their situations. Giving women and children the ability to connect with someone who is both famous and a hijab-wearing Muslim demonstrates the significant and sentimental value of storytelling. Imagine young girls flipping through magazines to see a model who not only has similar features as them but who also feels relatable. When successful people in different industries are relatable, they inspire others to chase their dreams, no matter the given circumstances.

The TEDx is a milestone. By representing refugees in an inspirational way, an event like this eliminates negative stereotypes and false information about the community. There are approximately 471,330 refugees that reside in Kenya, and yet it seems as though they are invisible to the rest of the world. There’s a false stereotype surrounding refugees; that they are “burdens” rather than human beings, and this frame of thinking is not only detrimental to their population but humanity as well. They leave their homes to be safe, yet they are treated as inconveniences. That’s why platforms for storytelling, like the TEDx event, are important. They reveal a resilience to negative stereotypes, a resilience that comes through creativity.

Storytelling is an art that’s practiced by many. For a community that is forcibly isolated, hearing inspirational stories that come from people of the same background brings hope. Peers are communicating their own hardships and how they survived such turmoil. Overall, it provides a source of healing to those who need it most. To share similar stories with others provides comfort in a place that is not their permanent home.

Imagine being forced to leave your country due to traumatic circumstances such as war, and ending up somewhere that is completely foreign to you. Refugees deal with forced alienation from their home countries and new, unfamiliar territories. Thus, sharing stories can make someone feel as if they are home.

Reshaping the narrative by counteracting stereotypes with stories brings inspiration. Having refugees such as Aden and others speak and share their experiences gives hope to their peers. The art of storytelling is sentimental and powerful. No one should have to feel invisible in such a vast world. It is time to allow refugees to be visible and heard.