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Sickle cell warriors find hope in film making

Kisumu County Sickle-Cell anemia warriors have united to conquer the odds of unemployment through film.

The group banks on film production to create employment opportunities for the youth and the less privileged.

According to Mitchelle Omullo, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Victoria Youth in Film Empowerment, the films produced were geared towards sensitizing and educating the public on sickle cell anemia disease.

“Apart from entertaining, we saw a need to educate about sickle cell anemia through our films. There is a knowledge gap in the community as these patients and warriors still suffer loneliness and stigma,” Omullo said.

Omullo, a sickle cell warrior, said they have been struggling to get and keep employment as most employers do not understand the struggles and burdens of the disease.

“When facing a crisis as a sickler, which happens often causing one to be absent during office hours, employers easily lay you off,” she said.

With over 35 members working as directors, producers, sound managers, scriptwriters, and actors, they have produced several films including a documentary dubbed Ray of Hope.

The documentary which features medical experts and specialists in the field provides detailed explanations on sickle cell anemia disease, genotypical occurrence, treatment, and management process and handling of sickle anemia warriors.

“Sadly, sickle cell disease has affected those from humble backgrounds. I saw the need that sicklers also need to be heard. They should have something to do,” Omullo said.

With the hope of getting funds from donors and well-wishers, Victoria Youth in Film Empowerment has projected to produce more movies and short films.

Partnering with a Nigerian-based filmmaker, the group plans to shoot a genotype movie on sickle cell advocacy and the importance of taking genotype tests before marriage.

“We have talked to known actors who are going to help us gain a world audience,” she added.

Omullo recognized the help they have received from the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) regional office in Kisumu who helped in brainstorming for ideas and registering the group.

She urged the government to come up with programmes on advocacy and sensitization on sickle cell anemia and other diseases for filmmakers.

Kenya Film Classification Board Nyanza Regional Manager Edward Koech said the area was endowed with rich film talent and opportunities.

He said KFCB would continue to train and empower filmmakers to identify gaps and create job opportunities.

“There are inadequate employment opportunities for filmmakers in the government. We, therefore, encourage creativity and clean content that will attract sponsors to establish more industries in the region,” Koech said.

He also encouraged filmmakers to produce films that promote health, tourism and trade, to attract researchers and investors to help boost the health sector and the economy.

“I call upon other filmmakers to pursue training and sharpen their skills as this will help in the production of quality films that will help them knock doors of sponsorship,” he affirmed.

By Lorine Awino and Evangeline Mola

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