Sudan refugees: Taking back their story

They call themselves the "eyes and ears of Nuba", a reference to the mountains from which they fled.
Young, mainly in their 20s, sometimes younger, these student refugees share a similar narrative. Their villages, tucked away in the remote regions of South Kordofan in the Sudan, became uninhabitable: They were rained down on with rockets; they could no longer grow food, keep cattle, go to school.
They joined 15,000 other refugees in Ajuong Thok camp in South Sudan (Yida camp, closer to the Sudanese border, houses an additional 70,000). Now, they want their stories to be heard. They are citizen journalists in the making.
Last November, Kathryn Mahoney, a communication officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and a self-described "repository of stories" launched an initiative that trained 21 students from the community in digital storytelling through smartphones.
"I travel around and meet these amazing refugees who have been through some of the most horrifying situations, and my responsibility is to help them get their story out, to amplify their voice," she says.
"But as humanitarians, we forget that these are their stories to tell."
At first, she recalls, the students didn't know how to turn the phones on.
"Growing up in the west, we take for granted our visual literacy. We're literally bombarded with images from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. These students don't come from that culture, so even with issues like framing and point-of-view, we were really starting from scratch," she recalls.
By the end of the course, Mahoney says, "they knew how to use the phones better than I did."
The phones have since gone to the local school, which has adopted a kind of lending library for other students who want to learn photojournalism skills and sign the equipment out.
The students paired the photos they took with a narrative. Some opted for straight quotes from their subjects, a la Humans of New York. Others wrote essays.
Browse through the gallery above and select "show caption" to read their stories.