“ 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 Shagaf, born in the refugee camps, 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 more widely to tell their story, promote their culture and advocate for their rights. Our on-going main project is Desert Voicebox. It is providing English and music education to over 60 Saharawi refugee children in a four years-long after school programme and is training local women to teach and run the programme.
• 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 continue training our local teachers remotely to enable them to become certified to teach and train and to involve volunteers to do enriching special activities with the Desert Voicebox students. Click here to DONATE NOW!
• MARCH 20/21: Singer-song-writer Christopher Guard completes his amazing fundraiser challenge to write a solidarity album of 6 songs in 24 hours for the Saharawis. Follow us @desertvoicebox.challenge on Instagram to hear song teasers from the album and please DONATE to hear the entire song which goes towards keeping the fantastic Desert Voicebox project going and growing in the Saharawi refugee camps
• Check out and please donate to the Hassaniya-learning challenge on instagram by Beccy Allen. She is learning enough Hassaniya (Saharawi spoken Arabic dialect) to talk to her Saharawi "mum" in the camps. Her latest video is of learning the lyrics to one of the most famous Saharawi resistance songs, "The Sahara is not for Sale. "
• Carolina Graterol completed her marathon challenge on March 13 and even ran extra mile! Fantastic! She raised he grand total of £756 for Desert Voicebox! A huge thanks to all those who donated to her fundraiser and have helped support Saharawi refugee children to have a brighter future.
Desert Voicebox Project- latest developments
• March 30. Click here to read article by Sandblast director Danielle Smith and Dr. Violeta Ruano, published on the MENA blog about the situation in Western Sahara and Sandblast project work in the camp.
•March 22 For World Water Day, advanced Desert Voicebox students record and send short videos and write letters in English about their lives and living with little water to students at the International School of Oradea in Romania. Follow us @desertvoicebox.challenge on instagram to hear their stories
• Feb-March. Our wonderful special project volunteers, Izzy and Sara, have been working hard (remotely via Whatsapp) with our local English and music teachers to create the Hassaniya-English booklets with the Desert Voicebox students and to rehearse and record Song of the Earth, composed by Ruth Travers (creator of Stave House music method), in order to join London-based children's choirs for a virtual performance on Earth Day on April 22.
• Jan-Feb 2021. `Two penpal link exchanges take place between students of Chapel Street primary school in Manchester and Desert Voicebox. The letters are being exchanged through WhatsApp.
• Read the interview with Georgia Lomax Thorpe about her volunteering experience with Desert Voicebox in Jan/Feb 2020.