Repan is always dreaming about his next invention.

He fled violence in Sudan.

Repan Sadik, 30 years old: In every challenge he faces, Repan finds inspiration for a new invention.
“I invented a flashlight when I was 13 because I wanted to see in the dark. The feeling was intense. It felt like I owned the world. In Bonga, I made a fan using old magnets and oil tins, which cooled my otherwise very hot refugee cottage. After proving that this was working well, I made four more and gave them to my mother and friends.” I became famous and my friends started calling me ‘The Refugee Scientist’.

In 2007, UNHCR supported us Sudanese to return home to the Blue Nile State of Sudan. As I became a refugee in 1987 when I was one year old, I was not surprised that the return felt like my first displacement experience. After four years, another conflict erupted in September 2011 and we were on the run again. This time, the Ethiopian Government and UNHCR put me, my wife and our six children in Sherkole camp, barely 50km from the border with Sudan. I continued with my inventions. I made a lightning arrester and a memory card. The most remarkable of my inventions in Sherkole is my two-storey home, which has since become an important landmark for the camp.”

Ethiopia. Repan constructs an amazing house in Sherkole camp

Sudanese refugee Repan Sadik, 30, has spent 26 years of his life in refugee camps. Currently living in Sherkole refugee camp in Ethiopia, his home has become a symbol of ingenuity and resourcefulness. © UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers

Ethiopia. Repan constructs an amazing house in Sherkole camp

Repan shows off his studio where he creates useful items from collected scraps. All of his creations were born out of necessity. At the age of 13, he created a flashlight so he could see in the dark. © UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers

Ethiopia. Repan constructs an amazing house in Sherkole camp

Repan, nicknamed Refugee Scientist, checks on his handcrafted antenna on his two-storey home in Sherkole refugee camp, Ethiopia. In his previous home, he created a fan using old magnets and oil tins to cool the cottage. © UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers

Ethiopia. Repan constructs an amazing house in Sherkole camp

Repans wife and three of their six sons in front of their two-storey home. In 2011, Repan fled violence for the second time with them. © UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers

Ethiopia. Repan constructs an amazing house in Sherkole camp

Repans ingenuity is remarkable considering his limited educational opportunities. He dreams of a better education and more opportunities for his children. © UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers

Ethiopia. Repan constructs an amazing house in Sherkole camp

Repan Sadik’s landmark self-constructed home for his family. He is currently building a bamboo house for his father. © UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers


Repan, his wife and six children now live in Sherkole, the oldest camp in the western Ethiopian region of Benshangul-Gumuz, with more than 11,000 other Sudanese refugees. To help support his family, Repan builds and sells beds, chairs and tables made out of bamboo. However, it is Repan’s ingenuity that sets him apart, having found simple solutions to make life easier in the camp. Now that his children have shown interest in their father’s work, he dreams of more opportunities for education and a better future for them.

Written by Kisut Gebre Egziabher

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When his family first fled the Blue Nile state of Sudan in 1987, Repan was just one year old. He does remember growing up in Bonga refugee camp in Ethiopia. After the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Sudan’s warring factions in 2005, the two decade-long war was officially over. UNHCR, in partnership with the Governments of Ethiopia and Sudan, supported the repatriation of thousands of refugees, including Repan and his family, back to Sudan’s Blue Nile State. Unfortunately, in 2011, internal war broke out in Chali El Fiel, Blue Nile State. And once again, Repan fled with his family to the refugee camps of Ethiopia.

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