LIVED Activities: 2016 Update
Winter is fast approaching, and much has happened since we last wrote with a comprehensive update of our activities. It often feels as though we are so busy trying to keep up with running and maintaining the various projects we have going and supporting our volunteers that the additional work of making those activities visible and sufficiently public can seem like a low priority, especially given that we are completely run off the steam of volunteers, many of whom are graduate students with quite a lot on their plate. But given that so much has happened and is happening, we felt it was about time to provide an update, for those who are curious and might like to know.
This past Spring we sent a team of 3 volunteers to Calais and Dunkirk in France to begin filming a short documentary/series of short videos that shed light on the day-to-day lives, challenges and resiliencies of young people there. There were some unanticipated challenges and complications, as there always are, but we are currently in the process of post-production, going through all the footage and video/audio material trying to put together something that will communicate the stories and experiences our team encountered in a way that does them justice and gets beyond news/media coverage of the so-called “jungle.”
In parallel to this trip, we sent two team members and trustees to Beirut as the first leg of our 3-trip British Academy-funded project working with refugee youth there. This trip was meant to facilitate partnerships and collaborations with local refugee aid organisations in Beirut, as well as to run preliminary photo-voice and creative workshops with our young participants, and we’re happy to report that the trip was a huge success.
Based upon the success of this Beirut trip, our board of trustees was also busy over the summer putting together a large ESRC (Economic Social Research Council)/AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) grant proposal in response to a funding call on forced displacement. Through this grant we hoped to expand the scope of our British Academy project by: (1) adding additional creative workshops that would reach more young people, including music, visual arts/painting, and documentary film-making workshops; (2) expanding our focus to include marginalized/refugee youth community integration and creative empowerment activities; and (3) generating robust ethnographic research to share with our aid practitioner partners on the emotional lives of forcibly displaced and marginalized youth in urban Beirut, hoping to help inform refugee aid policy and practice.
We recently found out that this grant application was unsuccessful, missing the funding by an inch, according to the reviewers. This has made us even more determined to continue our efforts to get funding to complete this project the way we had come to envision it: in a way that could really make a positive impact in the lives of the young people involved. We therefore plan to tailor and resubmit the grant application to other funding bodies, including the Leverhulme Trust. But in the meantime, our work on the British Academy grant continues, and we will be sending two team members on a 2nd trip to Beirut in December to continue building relationships with our youth participants and partner aid organisations, and also to begin the filming of an ethnographic documentary meant to share some of the stories of these young people, while supplementing the research being conducted.
In parallel to our Beirut project activities, we are also preparing to deliver a series of 8 weekly workshops to adolescent girls in the Edinburgh community as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Heritage project and the Duke of Edinburgh Inclusion initiative running from October-December 2016. In these workshops, 6 of our team members will be facilitating photo-voice activities with these young girls with an eye towards putting together a public exhibition of their stories in the National Gallery in the Spring. Some of the workshops are tailored towards an exploration of heritage and some are more focused on leadership, confidence-building and empowerment, with a focus on gender. We are very excited about this collaboration, and many thanks to all involved for helping to make this possible.
Furthermore, in a continuation of a photo-voice exhibition titled “Claiming Back Narratives” held at the University of Edinburgh last May in collaboration with a wonderful organisation called Refuweegee, we have a group of undergraduate student volunteers trying to expand this initiative and bring it to Glasgow, adding more stories and voices to the exhibition and raising awareness about the everyday lives, experiences and challenges of refugees and asylum seekers living in Scotland. We hope to hold this exhibition before the winter holidays.
Finally, two of our team members who are conducting fieldwork research in Bogota are also pursuing collaborations with local aid organisations in the hopes of being able to facilitate creative, photo-voice workshops with displaced youth in the spring. Our documentary plans in Bogota are currently on hold, but we are hoping to secure the resources to resume those efforts in the near future.
We are also keen to continue screening our documentary, Learning to Swim, about the lived experiences and stories of forcibly displaced Syrian young people living in and around the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan wherever we can (including secondary schools, university settings, policy spaces, advocacy events, etc) in an effort to humanize the disrupted lives of forcibly displaced families and add urgency to the ongoing conflict and heartbreak happening in Syria. It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than two and half years since our team was in Jordan filming, right on the Syrian border, listening to people’s stories and trying to understand how much they wished they could just return home. And somehow the situation seems to have only gotten worse and more entangled. Our thoughts continue to be with all those we met there in the Spring of 2014. We wish we could do more.
If you or anyone you know might be interested in facilitating a screening surrounding these issues, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Katherine Baxter, co-director