Oliver Mahoro is a junior at the Academy for College and Career Exploration (ACCE), and a member of our Youth Media Festival Committee. Oliver is also a high school intern with us as part of ACCE’s internship program. Oliver is learning photography, event planning and public speaking skills as a committee member to help coordinate our 8th Annual Wide Angle Youth Media Festival this spring.
On Oliver’s first day he reviewed our filmography to learn more about our organization. Originally from Rawanda, Oliver has lived in South Africa for the past 10 years and moved to the United States 3 months ago. He expressed an interest in our student’s short film “The Paradise That Wasn’t” about refugee youth in Baltimore, and he wrote this letter to its creator, Evodie Ngoy:
My name is Oliver Mahoro, I am from the country of Rwanda. I was touched by your film when I came across it upon my first visit at Wide Angle Youth Media. I was doing my internship when Carey approached me, and asked me to go through some of the work (pictures and videos) that had been made by the youth here to get an insight of what Wide Angle Youth Media is all about. They were all amazing telling different stories from different points of view, but yours was the one that stood out for me.
I have been through similar things that you talked about. See like you, my family and I did a lot of traveling. I was born in Rwanda just when the war started, and due to that we were forced to move. When we left Rwanda we went to your country Congo DRC hoping that the war wouldn’t reach there, but when we got there it was even worse than the war back home. My mother was pregnant at the time with my young sister and we decided to return to Rwanda.
When we got there it looked as if the war had died down for some time, but then about five months later, when we thought that we could start over with our new lives, the war broke out again. This time it was different from the previous one, and extended to about four other countries. In the middle of the night we left the country never to go back. We fled into the mountains trying to make our way to a refugee camp that was set up in Congo Brazzaville.
About two months after we arrived, my younger sister was born, while waiting to be resettled the war reached the refugee camp, and again we were on the move from Congo. We went to Uganda, but life there was just as bad so we didn’t stay there for long. Next, we moved to Kenya, where I started school. After finishing grade two, we moved to Malawi where we lived for the next four years. We than spent the next two years trying to make our way to South Africa. In those two years we lived in, or rather passed through, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
Life in these countries was very difficult because there were no jobs there. We know that no job means no money, and instead of spending the last bit of money we had in these countries we decide to make our way to South Africa. People had told us that life there is a lot better. After two long years of traveling we finally arrived in South Africa on August 22, 2002, which then became our new home. We lived there for the next ten years before moving to the United States.
We arrived in the United States on September 5, 2012. Like you, fitting in was a big problem but through the grace of God, I was accepted within the first week of school by my fellow schoolmates. They found me very interesting because we had so much in common and also because I am from Africa.
It has been two months of school now, and I haven’t been bullied or anything like that. The fear of rejection that I had over time just died out. I guess I’m a people person. Your video was very inspiring in a lot of ways. When I watched it reminded me of my family and friends that I left back in South Africa. Your video gives us refugees a lot of hope in terms of knowing that there are people like us going through the same things that we are going through. It encourages us to work very hard.
To the people that might watch this film, it was made to help us refugees understand that even though you might think that you’re the only one going through this kind of re-adjustment to a new place, always remember that you’re not alone. And to the Americans that might watch this: we are people just like you. We come to your country to seek freedom, acceptance and your help. This film gives you an insight of just some of the things refugees face.
I hope that after audience members watch your film the next time they see a refugee that they will not see only see someone who fled his country but that they will also see a hard worker who strives to make a living for himself and his family just like them.
Thank you so so much for your film, Evodie.
We are honored that Oliver has shared his experience with us, a different perspective and voice of a youth refugee in Baltimore echoing and appreciating Evodie’s experience in “The Paradise that Wasn’t”.
Help us continue to share the voices of Baltimore youth by donating today. In 2013, we will provide free high-quality media education to over 300 young people in Baltimore City. Our programs will encourage more youth like Oliver and Evodie to share their own experiences through filmmaking, photography, and design.
In celebration of our 12 years, please consider pledging $12 every month for 2013 and help us continue to share youth voice in Baltimore. You can easily schedule a recurring donation at wideanglemedia.org/donate