9 March

Today I traveled past Thika Town on the Garissa Road to Heights Academy to see the extraordinary Ojullu Ochan, Dadaab Theatre Project member and now head boy, at his boarding school. There is only one head boy and he wears a green tie, the prefects get orange ties, and everyone else wears gray and maroon striped ties. After struggles in the Dadaab Refugee Camp Ojullu has excelled in school the past three years and is in his final year of high school, Form Four, and he will sit the National Exams in November.

Ojullu is 25. He does not know his date of birth, but it was in 1989. As a refugee all birthdays are assigned as January 1. He is justifiably proud to be finishing school.


Ojullu showed me classrooms, the staff room, the dining hall and church room, and his dorm. There are about 70 students who board at the school, from primary school up to secondary school. The setting is beautiful, and as a student leader, Ojullu is known by all. I can tell that he works hard and has earned respect. I cannot find the words to describe his smile as he showed me around. A mzungu on campus is a big deal. I met staff in the staff room, amazed by the schedule outlined in chalk on a board at one end of the room. We sat under a tree in a circle of chairs and I got to meet his mates. I gave him and his buddy Angango new Cincinnati T-shirts. As Ojullu says: ‘Wow.’



Ojullu surprised me with a presentation of poems and songs in front of the entire upper school by members of the Drama Club of which Ojullu is president. And I say: ‘Wow.” It was so beautiful to see the students take the floor and share difficult poems in front of peers for a stranger, in some cases, poems they began learning that very morning.


Ojullu overpowers with deep gratitude. I look at him and I can feel his thankfulness. It is unspoken, but it is deeply rooted and authentic. His circumstance is harder than I will ever, ever know, it is emotionally difficult and he finds the positive everywhere. His life exists in a small locked trunk at the foot of his bunk bed, in a room of at least 40 bunk beds, and in a locked desk, desk H55 N7, where he keeps books and papers. His home is where he is. His family is whoever he is with. His life source does not seem to need things.


Thanks to the work of Michael Littig and Julianna Bloodgood, who brought Drama to the Dadaab Refugee Camp with the Dadaab Theatre Project, Ojullu has brought Drama to Heights Academy in Thika. Meet the Drama Club.


Ojullu recited the last poem written by Edgar Allen Poe in 1849- Annabel Lee. He found it using Google and he liked it. I sat in Kenya and watched Ojullu charm the room with his recitation and I thought ‘Wow.’


Drop a stone in a lake and watch the ripples spread. I will see Ojullu again in April before I depart Kenya. What am I really looking forward to? I can’t wait to see Ojullu in twenty years, to see what he has continued to become, to see the life he has made and the lives he has touched.

THE RAIN by Ojullu Opiew

I might put it in writing
but all is not moved
Oh! God in Heaven
Do I have to bear
this heavy weight alone?

Every day my thoughts mingle
with the rues of the past
my thoughts carried away
by the wind that blew so fast

My struggle, my tears
But still I’m there
sticking to the past

I might pray to God
for He knows all these
But all He could send were obstacles
A package full of sorrows

Under the Dust stained tent
the sweat sparkles
Size does not matter but what goes on inside
Only, only a little oil in the bottle
3kgs of rice for 15 days

What should I do?
What should I drink
To end the misery!
My life as an alien
Was but just a perseverance

After many that I Knew,
Loved and Valued
Were taken away by death
Leaving me in agony
And sometimes the scent of my home
was marked with ethnicity and sabotage

In dark night out there
You could hear
the screaming hyenas,
and hooting owls

But after all I know
the rain will come.
I fear the Worst
Shame of my life
pierced with heat and hunger
But what is there to be done?
Only silence and patience to bear it all.

But what I only know
that the Rain will Come!

To Ojullu: A Mighty Force. I believe your rains have begun.


This entry was published on March 10, 2014 at 6:06 am. It’s filed under Culture, People, Places, Teaching, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “A MIGHTY FORCE: PART TWO

  1. Gede Prama on said:

    I really like and very inspired… 🙂

  2. Beverly Croskery on said:

    What abeautiful piece, Richard. I know your influence will be felt in Kenya long after you leave.
    Blessings always,

  3. Leith Hallows on said:

    So inspiring to see this work, and especially to see Ojullu and see his sweet determination. The rain will come. The world is always turning toward the morning.

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