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The Beginning: Born in Fangak, South Sudan (1996)

I, Paul Padiet, was born in Fangak, South Sudan, in 1996. My early life in the village was simple and filled with the joys of a tight-knit community. From watching movies on a white sheet to tending to livestock and fishing in the River Nile, these memories shaped my childhood. A near-fatal fall from a tamarind tree scarred me, but I was lucky to recover, thanks to traditional village treatments and insurance from my father's job with Save The Children.

IMG_20211011_124633 At an early age, a picture was taken of Paul Padiet in his village of Fangak.

A New Chapter: Moving to Kenya (2004)

In 2004, my family moved to Kenya for better educational opportunities and a brain check-up for me. We traveled by plane from Fangak to Lokichogio and then to Wilson Airport in Nairobi. With the help of relatives, we settled into our new life in Kenya.

Education in Kenya (2005-2016)

I started Primary 1 in 2005, quickly learning Kiswahili, and continued my education through the KCSE exams in 2016. But that year also brought challenges: South Sudan's second war broke out, our home was destroyed, and our family struggled financially. We faced the tough decision of returning to South Sudan as IDPs or seeking refuge in Kakuma Refugee Camp. IMG-20210719-WA0122

In 2012, Paul Padiet and his classmates, along with their teacher, were captured in a photograph as they waited to take the KCPE exams. 

Joining Kakuma Refugee Camp (2017)

In 2017, after completing my secondary education, I moved to Kakuma Refugee Camp to join my family. I had to start from zero in pursuing higher education, but with determination, I enrolled in programs with the University of Utah, Jesuit Worldwide Learning, University of Geneva, and Purdue University through InZone.

StepUp.One Journey: Becoming a Social Media Expert (2017-Present)

My journey with StepUp.One began when I was invited to join the pilot team by Mohamud Hure, an education officer from the UNHCR Kakuma office. I learned valuable skills in social media marketing, content creation, and website management. Over the years, I've worked with numerous clients, from Hootsuite to Agriledger and Eleanor Healthcare Group, honing my skills and growing professionally.91159187_155820809006050_8442798525664708417_n

Paul Padiet and his colleagues were provided with meeting space by the UNHCR office in Kakuma Refugee Camp to conduct their meetings.

I work with clients in various sectors, creating content and managing their social media presence. I am also collaborating with Gretchen Wilson on a project exploring curiosity and digital ethics. My teammates Susan Achiech, Paul Kamuhanda, and Joeffrey Bhule have supported me throughout my journey with StepUp.One, and together, we continue to learn and grow.

Current Projects and Future Aspirations

In the four years since I embarked on my mobile photography journey, I have experienced countless highs and lows. Along the way, I discovered the power of storytelling through images. My friends, initially puzzled by my fascination with sunsets, landscapes, and nature, unknowingly fueled my passion. As I shared my work with them, their awe and admiration validated my vision.127803603_140281434544291_5290445877401490398_n

Paul Padiet used a Samsung A20s to capture the well-known Kalemchum Hill at the Kakuma Refugee Camp.

As my friends and the communities around me began to see me as a professional photographer, my world opened up. Serendipity led me to Joelle Hangi, who offered valuable feedback on my work. Inspired by her expertise with a DSLR camera, I aspired to learn more. I created Instagram and Facebook pages to showcase my work, and as my following grew, I was met with requests for music videos and editing. This newfound curiosity led me to hone my skills further.


Before joining FilmAid Kenya's media training class, Paul Padiet learned photography on his own using his smartphone.

Meeting talented filmmakers Allan Cheruiyot and Okelo Sejo marked another turning point in my journey. Encouraged by their support, I enrolled in FilmAid Kenya's media training program, where I fulfilled my goal of becoming a film editor. After 17 years away, I returned to South Sudan, where I immersed myself in the local culture and connected with like-minded individuals in the filmmaking community.

Although a lack of funding halted our ambitious feature film project, my work on a video about plastic waste management in the River Nile opened new doors for me. Currently, I am working towards establishing a film production company in Juba to support the local media sector.

Reflecting on my life, I realize that my curiosity has always driven me to learn and grow. From the days of wondering about the mechanics of movies and wildlife documentaries to my journey as a photographer and filmmaker, I have always sought answers to my questions. Overcoming challenges, such as falling from a tree and adapting to life in Kakuma, has only made me more resilient.

One of my proudest moments was earning my first income from photography while studying at FilmAid Kenya. The money allowed me to return to South Sudan and explore new opportunities. Now, as the founder of 'Padi Pictures,' I use my skills in storytelling to facilitate communication among NGOs, beneficiaries, and donors.PSX_20210722_132129

When Paul Padiet's photograph was featured on a magazine cover, he received compensation for his photography through FilmAid Kenya.

In Conclusion: An Inspiring Refugee Story

My story as a refugee is one of resilience, determination, and the pursuit of knowledge, through my experiences at Kakuma Refugee Camp, my education, and my work with StepUp.One, I've become a stronger, more skilled individual. I hope my story inspires others to face their challenges head-on and strive for a better future.

Looking ahead, I envision myself contributing to the growth of South Sudan's media sector over the next five years. By telling the region's untold stories and creating a media hub for creatives, I hope to make a lasting impact on my community and beyond.IMG_9781

NGOs operating in the region are helping Paul Padiet document the resilience of cattle keepers in Bor County, Jonglei, South Sudan.


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