As the Lived Zaatari Documentary Project stands at the beginning of its transition to LIVED, a registered Scottish Charity, a few words from the team to explain where we're at, where we're headed and our continued commitment to the places we've been.
Almost 6 months have passed since our trip to Jordan, and our hearts and thoughts are still with the inspiring people we met last May in Amman, Mafraq and the Zaatari refugee camp. Throughout the summer, LIVED has been busy working on both the documentary and on designing an initiative that is in line with our principles and that fulfills our mission: to give voice to and increase refugees’ agency within a context that has been forced upon them, while facilitating innovative and sustainable education projects among communities of displaced people.
To this end, we have designed a documentary film-making workshop, aimed at Syrian refugee adolescents in both the Zaatari refugee camp and the town of Mafraq. However, with much disappointment, we currently find ourselves unable to implement this workshop in Jordan. Over the past few months the situation near the Syrian border has changed drastically and in significant ways, adding layers of complexity to an already complex and devastating conflict. Recent changes in the region not only affect the Syrian refugee population, but also increase volatility and uncertainty in Jordan.
As an NGO, LIVED is committed to rigorous reflexivity, sensitivity and respect for those we work with; most importantly displaced youth. This means that we have had to reflect on our presence in Jordan and critically examine the possible contribution we would be able to make at this time. After careful and thorough consideration, we have decided to put our documentary film-making workshop in Jordan on hold for the simple reason that we are concerned about the potential risk this might pose to our workshop participants as well as to our staff. When filming our documentary last Spring, we were continually aware of the risk posed by various actors attempting to use children as political agents. We are thus concerned that the implementation of our pilot initiative, as currently designed, might endanger the adolescents we seek to work with, putting them in a vulnerable, maybe even dangerous position. Whilst some would argue that this is the time when initiatives like these are most needed, we feel that LIVED would not be consistent with its values of reflexivity, respect and sensitivity if we were to move forward despite acknowledging the significant potential to cause harm. This type of initiative may also not be the most appropriate contribution to make at this moment. Moreover, we acknowledge the limitations of LIVED as a newly registered NGO, and are concerned about the safety of our staff. It would go against our aims and intentions if the safety of our staff were jeopardized through the implementation of this initiative, most of all if it would mean that our presence in the region might lead to situations in which attention would have to be diverted away from those refugees most in need of support and protection towards instead ensuring our safety as outsiders.
However, whilst our film workshop is currently on hold, we are challenging ourselves as an organisation to come up with creative, innovative ways to fulfill our commitments to these young people without creating situations that might put them at risk. To do so, we are establishing a Jordan team within LIVED that is specifically responsible for designing another initiative or contribution that would fulfill our mission and values while ensuring the protection of those we wish to engage with. This brings new challenges, but we remain committed to bringing something of significance to the young people who shared their lives with us in the Spring and gave pieces of their lived experiences to our documentary. The documentary—currently in the final editing process--allows us to raise awareness and document the experiences of the families and young people we got to know in a significant way. However, we are taking steps to ensure that our contribution and involvement in Jordan does not end there, and that the ways in which we do continue our engagement in this place are meaningful, sensitive and appropriate to the complex situation in the region at this time.
Finally, while we redesign our contribution in Jordan, another team within LIVED is working on the implementation of the documentary film-making workshop initiative and the production of a second documentary in a different displacement community, similarly with the aim to make visible and communicate the lived experiences of youth refugee populations. This second community is being rigorously researched and deliberated on, and will be officially announced at our next event on October 24th. Please follow our website for more information.