Celebrating World Refugee Day with a Love Story

12 June 2013 | Uncategorized

UNHCR – The FunDza Literacy Trust and the UNHCR have joined together to mark World Refugee Day by publishing Finders Keepers, a short story about a refugee girl’s search for love and happiness. Starting 14 June, the seven-chapter story will be released in serial format (a new chapter each day) on FunDza’s mobi network. To further increase engagement, readers will be invited to enter an exciting competition connected to the story.

Through this teen love story – available in both English and isiZulu – FunDza and the UNHCR hope to raise awareness of refugee experiences and to promote tolerance, empathy and understanding.

In Finders Keepers, Aimée Mwamba loses her lucky coin on her first day at a new high school. It was given to her by her grandmother before she fled the civil war in the DRC. It is something precious from her country, and she has kept it safe across many borders and through many refugee camps. So when she drops it, and handsome, charming Mandla picks it up, she is determined to get it back.

Finders Keepers is a love story, designed to get teens hooked and coming back for the next chapter each day, but on a deeper level it explores loss, what it means to belong, and the courage to overcome adversity and prejudice. Each chapter ends with a discussion question aimed at engaging readers and provoking debate and comment around issues in the story.

Finders Keepers was written by experienced local author Ros Haden together with Phoebe Sibomana. A workshop with the UNHCR and its partner, the Agency for Refugee Education, Skills Training & Advocacy (ARESTA) helped with the plot development and other information.

Ros Haden noted: “Fiction is a powerful tool in creating awareness, understanding and empathy. I hope this story draws readers in, allowing them to walk in the characters’ shoes and identify with the challenges they face.

Co-author Phoebe Sibomana added: “I believe the story opens up a space for teens across nations to communicate and confront the issues related to different African cultures and languages. Being a refugee myself I could relate to the story and the issues Aimée faces. I think it’s an eye-opener for SA teens to see the diverse cultures that embody South Africa.

Speaking on behalf of the FunDza Literacy Trust, managing trustee Mignon Hardie noted how excited the organisation was to partner with the UNHCR on this initiative. “Finders Keepers is exactly the type of human interest story that will capture the imaginations and interest of our thousands of readers. And, yes, while it’s a love story that will get readers reading, we also know that the issues raised are likely to spark dialogue amongst readers and, ultimately, promote tolerance and understanding,” Hardie said.

Tina Ghelli, for the UNHCR says, “With the recent spate of violence against foreigners, including refugees and asylum-seekers, the release of this story couldn’t be more timely. Through the power of this story, we hope to convey the message that refugees are just like you and me, except they have been forced to flee their countries. We are happy to be partnering with FunDza, as it gives us a new and exciting platform to reach out to South African youth and encourage them to take an active role in building communities of  peace and diversity.

To promote Finders Keepers and increase interest in the story, UNHCR and FunDza are hosting a competition.  To enter, readers will need to answer a multiple choice question related to the story. Up for grabs is a laptop for one lucky winner (selected via random draw), as well as Mxit Moola for five runners up! Full details will be available on the FunDza mobi network from 14 June.

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About World Refugee Day World Refugee Day is held on 20 June each year. It was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2001, to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is the main international instrument of refugee law. This spells out clearly who a refugee is and the kind of legal protection, assistance and social rights he or she should receive from signatories to the convention.

The global theme for World Refugee Day 2013 is “1 Family Without Hope is Too Many” and the adopted South African theme is “Simunye (Together) in Building Communities of Peace and Diversity.

About the FunDza Literacy Trust The FunDza Literacy Trust is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving the literacy levels of teen and young adult South Africans by promoting reading for pleasure. One of its programmes – Growing communities of readers – leverages the reach of mobile technology to provide easy access to fiction that is relevant and exciting.

FunDza’s mobi network – which includes a mobi site (http://fundza.mobi) and Mxit portal (download Mxit from http://m.mxit.com and add ‘fundza’ as a contact) – is designed to get young South Africans reading and engaging critically and creatively with high-interest local stories. Each week FunDza publishes a new short story, showcasing the best of SA’s local writing talent. The popular portal – already reaching more than 350,000 readers – provides a platform for reading, discussion and interaction.

Press release issued jointly by the FunDza Literacy Trust and the UNHCR.

For FunDza, contact Nicci Giles or Mignon Hardie on:
nicci@fundza.co.za or mignon@fundza.co.za
Tel: 021 709 0688 or www.fundza.co.za

For UNHCR contact Tina Ghelli on :
ghelli@unhcr.org
Office: 012 392 1612
Mobile:  082 770 4189