Photo Credit: Sabrina Aman
Why Sabrina Aman Created A Documentary And Charity To Aid Eritrean Refugees
Sabrina Aman is a documentary filmmaker, travel/lifestyle blogger, and Executive Director of the RefuCare charity which supports Eritrean refugees. Born in Virginia to Eritrean parents, Sabrina was raised in Qatar for the first 12 years of her life.
In 1998, she and her family moved to her parents’ home country, Eritrea, in an effort to live there permanently. However, the war with Ethiopia broke out that year, and Sabrina’s family had to flee the country to move back to Virginia. She now resides in London after living in Los Angeles for the past 10 years.
Sabrina was inspired to create RefuCare after receiving an outpouring of love and donations in response to her documentary, The Forgotten. The incredible, eye-opening film shed light and raised awareness on the state of Eritrean refugees in camps in Sudan.
“People’s hearts were touched,” said Sabrina, “and they felt the urge to donate to support the refugee camps. I felt obligated to launch RefuCare so that I can receive people’s donations and begin making a greater impact in the camps.”
In The Forgotten, Sabrina and her father, a long-time humanitarian leader and advocate for Eritrean rights, visit refugee camps, secretly filming in an effort to bring attention on the forgotten Eritrean refugees rarely spoken about.
Though there are more than half a million Eritrean refugees living in Sudan, and many people who continue to flee the country due to reasons like a lack of freedom of speech and religion and a brutal forced national service that can last decades, there is seldom media coverage due to government censorship, dangers for journalists, and people being afraid to speak out.
“We show unbelievable shots of the inhumane refugee camps and the day-to-day life that the refugees live in. The camps are located in East Sudan, which makes it quite unsafe for anyone to travel there, especially because there is a consistent history of kidnappings for ransom, including the kidnapping of United Nations staff members. The Sudanese government completely forbids any cameras inside the camp, as they do not want anyone filming anything.”
However, Sabrina undertook the risky endeavor of going undercover into the camps with a backpack full of cameras. After two weeks of filming under the radar, she was caught two days before her departure and taken to the police station for hours of interrogation by six officers.
“Luckily, because my father was there, they let me go with the understanding that I shall never return to the country. It’s all in the film. They didn’t check my hard drive, which had all the footage I recorded. Upon my return, I released the film.”
The film was highly acclaimed, and Sabrina received a nomination and selection by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to be their Honorary Representative and High Profile Supporter in 2016 and 2017.
Today, RefuCare continues to work to help alleviate some of the hardship Eritrean refugees face daily. With the help of donors and supporters, RefuCare assists refugees in becoming self-reliant by providing the necessary educational tools to schools in the refugee camps, so that teachers have the resources and materials needed to teach their young students.
“We have built libraries, kindergarten classrooms, provided toilets for kindergarten schools, solar systems for electricity, uniforms for students, and educational materials, such as books, pencils, etc. We have also provided women with sanitary products for their monthly cycles, and every year we raise money to feed hundreds of fasting refugees during the holy month of Ramadan.”
As of three years ago, there has been a flood of Eritrean refugees in Indonesia, 80 of whom are students. This year they contacted RefuCare asking the organization to assist them in finding teachers for the students. RefuCare ran a social media campaign in July asking for volunteers who might be willing to teach the students, and received over 100 submissions from supporters around the world.
“We selected the top 12 volunteers that have been virtually teaching math, science, and English to 80 students between the ages of 11 and 17 since August this year. Many of the students will complete their GED courses, which will qualify them to graduate high school while in Indonesia, all thanks to our volunteers.”
RefuCare is also currently building a community center in one of the refugee camps in Sudan for the female refugees. The charity is providing them with sewing machines as an income generating opportunity that will allow them to be self-reliant, confident, and able to provide for themselves and their loved ones.
“We currently have a fundraiser campaign running to help us raise funds to purchase sewing machines, solar electricity, fabrics, desks, and chairs for the center. The community center is almost done being built. We just need additional support from donors.”
Individuals or companies looking to donate to help complete the community center are welcome to do so at www.refucare.org. Those interested in volunteering can email firstname.lastname@example.org. And definitely be sure to watch the eye-opening documentary, The Forgotten on YouTube.