Day 4: June 18, 2009

Refugee Cool

IMG_1448.JPG There’s a new kind of cool to me. It’s refugee cool. It’s not the type of cool you see in New York or LA night clubs, it’s not the attitude or the clothes or the accessories…it’s not having the new Wii game…it’s not the overly dressed yet laid back hipsters…it’s not even Wyclef or Lauryn Hill…it’s a moving target of X-factor’s.

In this case, it’s a teenager name Rahma whose mother is laying on a slab of concrete outside an old stone building, which serves as the hospital, sick from malaria; keeps on smiling and showing up for an on camera rehearsal for a live satellite feed to Washington DC. Rahma’s favorite thing in his world is school. That’s refugee cool.

Abdullaziz, rides a motorcycle, wears an Obama-USA belt, knows almost everyone in the camp, serves as a translator and good will ambassador to the i-ACT team, is the manager for the newly renamed Obama School Co -Education for Basic, and somehow knows how to control a crowd of over enthusiastic kids with a very subtle gesture or word, when no one else has the ability to do so. I call him the “Kid Whisperer.” What’s more, Abdullaziz will go on camera, anytime, anywhere, and call out Obama on his campaign promise to help the refugees of Darfur. His single largest trait is respect for his fellow citizens of Camp Djabal. That’s refugee cool.

The women that carry a heavy bucket of water on their head, and sometimes a sleeping baby on their back, two or three times a day, for their whole family…including the animals. Then a few kick in to shovel clay cement for the new shelter project for brick housing. That’s refugee cool.

IMG_1548.JPGA group of kids, that have probably never seen an iPhone, are game for a video gag to call President Obama, and pull if off as if they’ve all had iPhones. They’re ability to mimic the words and intention are unmatched, and their enthusiasm for trying something new is beyond belief. After the first few tries, I was no longer directing, the kids were directing each other. They knew what I was doing, and they were all pitching in their opinion on how to get the shot right. That’s refugee cool.

Nobody is complaining or saying they’re having a bad day, or getting depressed. They are producing and proactive about making their camp a better place to live.

So in the future, if you’re ever hanging out with me, and I say to you something is “Refugee cool,” I am paying someone or something the highest compliment possible.

One reply on “Refugee Cool”

Ian, YOU are refugee cool in my book. The work you’re doing now is bringing awareness to thousands, hopefully millions.

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