With over 2 million refugees and 4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), Syria is now the largest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime. While the brutal living conditions of displacement severely affect all Syrians, the children are the ones to bear the highest trauma of war: lost homes, lost security, lost communities, lost educations. These factors threaten to culminate in lost futures of an entire generation.
Zeitouna, an arts & sports program for displaced Syrian children, counters these traumatic factors by rebuilding bonds between mentor and child, rekindling inspiration and creativity, restoring confidence, and reclaiming the innocence of childhood. The program was borne out of three simple concepts:
• EVERY child deserves to play.
• EVERY child deserves a mentor.
• EVERY child deserves to be inspired.I will be a member of that team this summer and will teach basic photography, particularly of the pinhole and sunprint variety. The children will build and decorate their own cameras and then make their first exposures. For many of these children, these simple cameras will be the first cameras they have ever owned and those first images will be the first photos they have ever made.
As for me? I have been using pinhole cameras as a way to slow down and appreciate the world around me for ten years. I have used and made cameras that have ranged from highly-designed, elegant lacquered wooden boxes to those made from oatmeal containers, paint cans and even once, a pumpkin. Wherever I travel, it is a safe bet that a pinhole camera of one type or another is in my bag. I have taught photography for several years in my hometown of Portland, Oregon and I frequently donate my time lecturing to middle schools, high schools and college classes on my adventures with pinhole cameras.
Due to a segment filmed about me on Oregon Art Beat by Oregon Public Broadcasting, I was approached by a member of the Zeitouna Project and offered a spot on their summer 2014 team to travel to Turkey and help Syrian children by sharing with them my love of and excitement for bending light and making photographs.
The project is entirely voluntary, with neither compensation nor a budget for supplies. This is where I need your help. The goal of this campaign is to raise the necessary funds to cover travel expenses to Turkey as well as supply costs, including: materials for building and decorating cameras, photo paper to load into the cameras, the chemicals needed to process the images on site, plus the myriad other items like changing bags, safe lights, cyanotype paper, etc that will be needed.
This is a group effort. Sure, the team of volunteers in Turkey working in the refugee schools may just be a handful of people, but it is supported by people like you. This project succeeds with your help. In recognition of that, every person that donates $25 or more will receive a handwritten postcard by me, featuring an image from my experience on the front and recounting a story from the trip on the back. Other perks include prints of pinhole images I have made over these past ten years, from the beautiful to the bizarre. It's your choice and what a huge array of choice you have (you can check out a small gallery of my work on Flickr). I will be bringing home at least one pinhole camera that I make in Turkey and one lucky donor will receive that camera. Other donors will receive home-made (rough but functional) pinhole cameras that I will make out of something or other - the surprise will be half the fun and more than half of the point. And if you really want to get into the spirit of pinhole photography, I am offering a full-day pinhole workshop with me along the windswept stretches of the Oregon coastline, the lush depths of the Columbia River Gorge or the upper limits of Mt. Rainier. I'll even bring all of my own pinhole cameras for you to play with and will provide both the film and the processing.
Not only do you have the opportunity to earn some neat perks in the form of pinhole cameras or prints, but even more importantly you have the chance to help some children - to use art to brighten their day, week, month or even entire life.
Sharing this project with family and friends, via Facebook, Google +, Twitter, etc is an important way of helping as well. Please spread the word.
And thank you, for any and all help you provide.
To learn more:
The Karam Foundation
Zeb Andrews Photography
Avatar image courtesy of Chris Nelson and the Zeitouna Project, video courtesy of the Zeitouna Project.