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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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A doll for Amina

Refugee child's delight sparks toy drive

erin pence
 
Harriet Kamakil still recalls an 8-year-old Somali girl named Amina who visited her daily at her office in the refugee camp where she worked.

Kamakil gave a doll to Amina, who had never owned anything in her life, let alone a toy, and she never forgot the power of that doll. So when Kamakil came to the U.S. for school, she looked for a way to help in a bigger way. Earlier this year, the political science student at Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio, organized a drive to send play items to the Kakuma refugee camp in her home country of Kenya, where some 30,000 people live.

I told people around campus, professors and students, and everyone wanted to help, said Kamakil, who was raised a Lutheran. Then the news here picked it up, and we started getting so many toys from all over the community.

For future drives, Kamakil checked with a national agency that provides aid but learned that toys didn't fall under the category of humanitarian aid. I know that it's not clothes and food, but to me a toy is humanitarian aid, she said. It means so much to a child.

After graduating next spring, Kamakil plans to attend graduate school, and then continue working with refugees. There's a new refugee agency in Columbus (Ohio), and I would like to work with them for a year and learn, she said.

But she also misses home and hopes to return to Africa and use her education and skills to help those in need there.


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