Turning the Lens is a first-person storytelling platform on displacement. We focus on written, spoken word, and multimedia narratives created directly by those who have experienced or currently displaced. Storytelling can provide a lens through which to understand people’s emotional responses to fleeing crises, especially of disasters, war or community violence, penned directly from people’s lived experiences.
Storytelling can itself be a powerful tool for healing. We have formed a network of storytellers giving voice to people who would like to tell their story in their own words. Our partners work bring key insights into the transformative power of storytelling, which will enable us connect with scientists and practitioners to identify the neuro-psychosocial benefits of these narrative devices and bring together the best practice tools to facilitate healing, coping and resilience in this process. From these findings, we will run workshops and training to build literacy and bigger capacity for storytelling in psychosocial support for displaced communities.
Turning the Lens also ensures people are better informed on the reality of living out years in displacement. This is fundamentally about who gets to tell stories of the impacts of displacement, reconciliation and healing and which voices matter. Given the often misinformed or hostile reporting of refugee communities, we have created an Empathy Lab where refugee storytellers connect with communities and the public to provide powerful personal narratives that rehumanise the debate over displacement, and by doing so open minds and hearts to the struggle and endurance of displaced people.
The following features from our partners evidence the use of first-person narratives focused on dignified, agency-driven and empathetic storytelling.
When the world talks about Palestinians living under occupation and in refugee camps, it is usually in terms of politics and numbers. Moving beyond the impersonal narratives, We Are Not Numbers conveys the daily struggles and triumphs, the tears and the laughter, the aspirations that are universal among youth and resonate everywhere.
We Are Not Numbers has established a platform for connecting "word artists" from around the world with youth in Gaza and Lebanon to share and celebrate their stories, with experienced authors mentoring the youth.
On March 7th 2017, in partnership with Singa France and FRED & FARID Agency, for one day an entire Liberation issue was written by 21 refugees from different countries with one challenge: explain beyond today’s news how they see France. A paper by the refugees but not on refugees.
CLOWN ME IN
Clown Me In is a theatre company founded by Sabine Choucair of Lebanon and Gabriela Munoz of Mexico. Through interactive workshops and performances, the company uses clowning to spread laughter and provide relief to disadvantaged communities while exploring human vulnerabilities and helping individuals to accept them. Clown Me In has worked in communities around the world, including in Mexico, Lebanon, India, Brazil, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Greece and the United Kingdom and with Palestinian refugees.
Clown Me In's Digital Storytelling workshop is based on social therapy process, but with an emphasis on exploring personal stories and turning them into short movies. All movies are shown within the group, and some go on to be screened in the participants’ home communities or at film festivals.
Developing their personal stories helps participants to explore difficult aspects of their lives, and sharing these stories helps to highlight the struggles and experiences shared by many people.
Participants need no technical background in filmmaking to attend the workshop, though most assist in the technical process by shooting footage, recording sound and assisting the project facilitators during editing
Workshop led by Sabine Choucair with Al-JANA/ARCPA that works with communities that face marginalization in Lebanon in building on their strengths, and documenting and disseminating their empowering experiences and cultural contributions. Stemming from its work in the arts, AL-JANA also produces learning and creative resources by and for children and youth.
THE CARAVAN LEBANON
For several years Clown Me In has also produced a street theatre performance called The Caravan of which Sabine is the artistic director. Currently in it's third iteration, the Caravan aims to put the stories and voices of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon at the heart of a street theatre performance by travelling up and down the country recording their stories and playing them out loud as part of the performance. The first Caravan's performance was created in a collaboration between professional theatre makers and non professional refugee artists, the second, entitled 'Back to School' focused on teaching children and their parents the importance of going to school and encouraging them to register for the upcoming academic year and the third, entitled 'Van 12', aimed to raise awareness for children's rights across the country.
Four wonderful actors come to tell Lebanon how children's rights are being violated and teaching them about their rights.
A 15min documentary detailing the process of the Caravan project.
The process of harvesting stories is a very interesting and important process facilitated by the Caravan workshops.
#MeWeSyria works to activate storytellers and change-makers in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp and in refugee communities in Turkey and Lebanon in partnership with Questscope NGO, UNFPA, DARB-SYR and others.
THE WORLDWIDE TRIBE
The Worldwide Tribe use creative storytelling to bring a personal, human perspective to the issues that people want to know about, while investing in grassroots projects that make a direct difference to the lives of those in need. They believe that the world is getting smaller, and want to connect people all over the globe in one community of international citizens: The Worldwide Tribe.
Before I was a Refugee
"If they've got a smartphone...they're not a real refugee!"
People often think that refugees are poor. We asked some of the friends we made living in a camp in the port in Athens, what they did before they were labelled a 'refugee'...
...this is what they told us...
This is the story of Yaman.
Crossing the border from Syria to Turkey, he faced landmines, machine guns and the loss of his family in order to get out of a war zone.
This is the story of Zeinah.
The day she realised that the only way to survive was to leave the home and the country that she loved.
An intimate view of life inside a refugee camp
Football Without Borders
The Liberté Cup was more than just a football tournament for refugees in Dunkirk. It broke down stereotypes. It brought together people from all over Europe. It gave people something to look forward to. It allowed them to shed the label 'refugee'.
Pokemon Go in the Calais Camp
Pokemon Go has swept across the world. So we took it to the refugee camp in Calais, known as the Jungle, to play it with our friends there
VOICES OF THE CHILDREN
Voices of the Children provides a vibrant platform for creativity and self-expression through the arts and media giving a safe space for children affected by displacement and trauma to reclaim their individual agency, positivity and confidence.
On location in the Za'atari refugee camp filming for "Welcome to My House" music video collaboration with Luc and the Lovingtons. Dancing and filming with a class of kindergartners, Voices of the Children turned the tables and gave them the cameras to film. This is the result.
Photographer, Tasneem Alsultan, reflects on her time teaching photography to Syrian refugee youth with Voices of the Children in February of 2016 in Amman, Jordan.
My Dream, My Right is the result of the Za'atari Film Workshop; an initiative co-sponsored by Voices of the Children and Save the Children that included a three-week filmmaking experience for Syrian refugee teens in Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan. Using camera phones as their recording device, this workshop provided the basics of documentary filmmaking. The end result of the workshop is nine documentary shorts filmed entirely by the teens on a subject of their choosing. In addition, each film is scored independently by music composition students at McNally Smith College of Music in the USA.
Mohamed & Mohamed
Mohamed and Mohamed's submission for "My Dream, My Right."
Khaldia, Marah and Bayan
Khaldia, Marah and Bayan's submission for "My Dream, My Right."
Anuar, Israa and Rehab
Anuar, Israa and Rehab's submission for "My Dream, My Right."
Roqaya, Nariman and Rahaf
Roqaya, Nariman and Rahaf's submission for "My Dream, My Right."
MY DREAM, MY RIGHT TRAILER
In Arabic, kitabna means "our book". Since 2014, Kitabna has been writin, illustrating and publishing multi-lingual (Arabic-English/Kurdsih-Arabic-English) children's book for children displaced by the sectarian violence in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey, Iraqi Kudistan, and Jordan.
Author Helen Patuck spent one year developing the project in Lebanon before moving on to the camps in France (Calais), Iraq and Jordan. Over 13,900 of Kitabna's books have been distributed to children in displacement now, including distribution with United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children International. In 2016 they were requested and deposited at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the University of Cambridge Library, Trinity College, Dublin, and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales.
In 2017, Kitabna is in the final stages of creating an anthology of stories written by Syrian teachers in Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan. Helen illustrated the anthology and will be co-publishing it with the Norwegian Refugee Council, building on their story-writing workshops of 2015. This beautiful anthology collects five stories written by the teachers and tries to capture the al-hakawati storytelling tradition Helen first experienced in Damascus, before the war back in 2008. The al-hakawati tradition of oral storytelling has existed in Syria for many generations and the folk tales capture social and moral values, entertainment and heroic epics. With this anthology Kitabna hope to share and add to the storytelling culture of Syria, even from within these two refugee camps, arguably some of the hardest places for displaced communities to live. By publishing these stories Kitabna wishes to give hope not only to Syrian refugee children and teachers living in camps and communities within Jordan, but also to Syrian communities across the world who may want to reconnect with their rich history of storytelling. To the wider world, Kitabna hopes that these stories tell a different kind of refugee story: one of playful creativity, not war, religion and political strife.
The books are themed around life in refugee camps, and aim to create pride and dignity in the stigmatised displacement experience. They work as educational tools to keep reading alive when formal education is unavailable, as bridges between linguistically and culturally diverse communities, as naturally safe spaces for children suffering from PTSD to revisit and reorganize difficult memories of displacement and as sources of hope and inspiration to children and teachers in displacement.
THEIR STORY IS OUR STORY
All the time the Taliban was warning my husband. "Why your wife go to school and teach children? If your wife goes to school we'll throw acid on her face and take your children."
Ghezal has lost her husband, father, a sister, a brother, cousins and neighbours to war and terrorism in Afghanistan.
Ali crossed mountains on foot helping his young nieces and nephews along the way.
Akhtar is an expert craftsman in marble and granite. His life's work. All gone.
"My family lives in western Iraq under control of ISIS so whenever I see something in the news that has happened in Syria, I feel lke my family is affected."
Kamaria and her son are now in their third camp. Intellect on hold, school on hold.