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Arouna Kandé: Voice and Victor for the Poor

Posted October 26, 2022

“My name is Arouna Kandé. I am a climate refugee.”

Arouna grew up in a family of farmers in the Kolda region of Senegal, where nearly 80% of the people live in poverty. Families like Arouna’s have long managed to make a living from small farms and herds. But harder droughts and growing deserts made their situation unlivable.

“I was working on the farm,” recalls Arouna. “The fields dried up. All the farmers suffered. The destruction of nature forced us to leave our homes.”

Arouna’s family became unable to provide for him, and at the age of 6 he was moved to the coastal city of Saint-Louis. Unbeknownst to his parents, he was given over to an orphanage that required children to beg for food and money.

“I wondered if I would ever see my family again.”

 

When he was twelve years old, still begging for food each day on the streets of Saint-Louis to survive, he found out both his parents had passed away.

Now a young man, Arouna has found that life in Saint-Louis has not removed him from the realities of a changing planet. Because it is situated on the coast, Saint-Louis is being slowly consumed by a rising sea. In addition, stronger storms often wash away homes and businesses.

“The sea took their homes,” Arouna continues. “The people had nowhere else to live after their houses were destroyed.”

“The sea has invaded all the houses in the area. Now some almost live in the sea.”

 

With growing deserts in the east and rising waters in the west, Senegal is squeezed by the planetary crisis. Many young people see no choice but to risk the dangerous migration to Europe. Tragically, they often die along the way.

Arouna has since dedicated his young adulthood to helping children in the orphanages of Saint-Louis to seek better options, finding strength in their solidarity and their faith.

You can view the rest of Arouna’s heartbreaking-turned-redemption story in the feature length documentary The Letter, produced by Oscar-winning Off the Fence Productions in collaboration with Laudato Si’ Movement and the Vatican, released by YouTube Originals.

With over 8 million views since its release on 4 October, the film brings to life the transformative vision of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ and features stories of people like Arouna—voices that have gone unheard in global conversations being invited to an unprecedented dialogue with the Pope.

For info on translated versions of The Letter and how to take action to care for our planet, visit TheLetterFilm.org.