“ What is it to be a refugee? Who are we? We know we are Saharawis, but only we know. The world does not know we exist. Being a refugee is like being outside this world" (Fatimetu Salah Shagaf, born in the refugee camps and teaches Spanish to women )
The Saharawis have been displaced in this extreme desert region of Algeria since 1975, following Morocco’s military occupation of their homeland. Originating from Western Sahara, an ex-Spanish colony, the territory is Africa's last official colony, It is divided by a Moroccan-built defensive wall 2700km long. The Saharawis have been seeking their right of self-determination and independence since launching their anti-colonial struggle in 1973.
According to the latest UNHCR 2018 report, over 170,000 Saharawis live in five large refugee camps, 80% being women and children. Aid dependent for over 45 years, they have endured harsh living and weather conditions and a lack of opportunities. Today, a third generation of Saharawi children are growing up with few prospects for a better life.
London-based Sandblast charity seeks to raise awareness of the Saharawi refugee plight in SW Algeria and build support for their self-determination cause. Through education, arts and skills development projects, Sandblast is empowering the refugees, especially youth and women, to become self reliant and able to reach audiences widely to tell their story, promote their culture and advocate for their rights. Our activities and projects aim to impart the tools and life skills to transform their lives and fulfil their individual and collective aspirations to build a better future.
• Join the DESERTVOICEBOX.CHALLENGE and help us raise funds to give Saharawi refugee children opportunities and skills to fulfil their potential and dreams.
Click here to find out more about the project. Follow us on instagram to view inspiring stories about the project and to learn more about Saharawi culture.
We need your support to improve our capacity to continue training our local teachers remotely and to work with our volunteers to do special activities with the Saharawi children. Click here to DONATE NOW!
• FEBRUARY: New Desert Voicebox challenge participants-see on instagram: Beccy Allen-started on Feb 1 her 27-day challenge to learn enough Hassaniya (Saharawi spoken Arabic dialect) to talk to her Saharawi "mum" in the camps. Karla, from camp Boujdour will walk 1km every day for 46 km to highlight the number of years the Saharawis have been living as refugees in Algerian desert.
•Carolina Graterol in ninja mode training for her marathon run on Feb 26! See photo below. Please support her. Click here to donate.
News and Actions
• Feb 6, Saharawi military forces have been pounding the 2,700km long Moroccan-built wall, known as the Berm, in Western Sahara, every day since the cease-fire ended on Nov 13, 2020. Now entering a period of intensification in its military campaign, the Polisario forces have declared their aim is to destroy the Moroccan fortifications and defence systems all along the Berm and extend its actions further into the whole territory and the interior of Morocco.
• Feb 1, Saharawi human rights organisation CODESA have launched an urgent appeal for ICRC presence in Morocco-occupied Western Sahara to protect Saharawi civilians, the target of rising human rights abuses since war broke out. Click on link to sign the appeal.
•The international solidarity movement with the Saharawi people launch PETITION urging new Biden administration to rescind Trump's illegal recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. PLEASE SIGN IT!
• Dec 10/2020 Trump unilaterally and illegally recognises Morocco's claim to the disputed territory of Western Sahara in return for the kingdom's full recognition of Israel. Click here to read more.
• Nov 13/2020. The 29 years long cease-fire in Western Sahara ends! Click here to read more
Desert Voicebox Project- latest developments
•Feb 1, Students at International School of Oradea in Romania send their first letters to Desert Voicebox students via WhatsApp to make new friendship links and learn the impact water shortage has on the lives of the Saharawi refugees. See photo of letter below.
• Jan. Led by our wonderful volunteers, Izzy and Sara, two new projects will be developing remotely in the coming months with our Desert Voicebox students. They will be working to create Hassaniya-English booklets and also be rehearsing to record Song of the Earth in March. Composed by Ruth Travers (creator of Stave House music method) their voices will join the voices of three other children's choirs that do Stave House music.
• Dec 2020. New penpal link launched between students of Chapel Street primary school in Manchester and Desert Voicebox. The letters are being exchanged through WhatsApp. One round of exchanges has already taken place in January. See below!
• Read the interview with Georgia Lomax Thorpe about her volunteering experience with Desert Voicebox in Jan/Feb 2020.