Now in her third year at Wittenberg, Kamakil has never forgotten the big impact that little gestures had on people with so little. A native of Kenya, Kamakil has organized a toy drive to benefit children in the Kakuma refugee camp in her home country. Currently, more than 30,000 people from across the continent live in desperate conditions at the camp.
"It's a tough place for anybody to be, but especially for a child," said Kamakil, a political science major. "I felt that if we could get toys, it would be something that would be so easy to do. I didn't want to do anything too big or too complicated. With this we can start small."
Kamakil plans to place collection boxes throughout campus, including residence halls, the Community Service office in the Joseph C. Shouvlin Center for Lifelong Learning and the International Education office in Hollenbeck Hall. Kamakil hopes to receive gently used toys that are not too bulky for shipping purposes by July 31.
So far, she has gotten in touch with possible donors, including people from the Dayton Daily News with whom Kamakil previously worked as an intern.
"So far, we've gotten a very good response from faculty members, students and my Facebook friends," said Kamakil. "My former editor at the Dayton Daily News is going to shop at Goodwill for these toys. It's not a grand scheme. We're just trying to get these toys to these lives who we can reach."
Toy distribution in the Kakuma refugee camp will not be a simple process. Kamakil hopes to find an organization that will be sensitive to the multitude of cultures and customs of the people residing there. She is working with Church World Service, the non-profit she worked with while in Africa, to get the toys shipped to the camp, along with the provisions of another non-profit organization.
"For example, we're trying to be sensitive to the fact that we would not give a doll to a Muslim child because they believe that toys should not be created in the likeness of a human being," Kamakil said. "We can give them little trucks and cars, or bowls and spoons for playing house. Dolls can be given to people not from Muslim countries."
Kamakil's idea for the toy drive was inspired by an experience she had while working in the Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda. She met an eight-year-old Somalian girl, Amina, living at the refugee camp who followed Kamakil as she worked and looked up to her as a big sister. Kamakil gave Amina a doll.
"She was so happy," said Kamakil. "It was the first thing she ever owned that was her own. She tied her baby on her back [as is African tradition]."
Before Kamakil left the camp, she asked Amina if she wanted anything and was surprised by the answer.
"Could you get me a dress for the doll?" said Kamakil. "Her first priority was about her doll. Children are still children everywhere."
Written By: Christi Lue '09
Photo By: Erin Pence
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