Diaspora Film Feature – Al-Kehdawy

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This is Al-Kehdawy, a Syrian grandfather we met in Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

He is a magical, gentle man who I bonded with straight away, despite not sharing a common language.

He is an artist and sculptor and spends his long days in the camp making models of traditional Syrian household items. He does this to keep the culture of his beloved homeland alive for the generations below him, who are being born into this camp in the desert, far from their home.

Al-Kehdawy tells his story in our latest film, Diaspora.

Diaspora weaves together the people and places that are STILL affected by the refugee crisis sweeping our world.

It’s 45 minutes long, but please take the time to honour our friends who shared their incredible stories and watch it.

Watch it instead of Love Island tonight (or as well as…you have just enough time before it starts).

This is important.

PLEASE SHARE. Everyone needs to see this.

To donate:

Diaspora

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To celebrate Eid and Refugee Week, The Worldwide Tribe presents….Diaspora.

From Syrians to Sudanese, from refugees to volunteers, from Europe to the Middle East…millions of people are affected by the refugee crisis we are STILL in the midst of.

People are on the move in the biggest migration the world has ever seen…

…But why?

Where are they going?

Why are they leaving?

Who are these people and what does this mean for the world as we know it?

How is the world responding?

In an attempt to meet those affected and find out…we bring you Diaspora.

Directed and Edited by Jamie Noel http://www.jamienoeldirector.com/

Saddam

Meet Saddam!

This 11-year old aspiring businessman is learning to say his future profession. He’s a shy boy with a big smile and a generous heart. Considerate and polite, he always tries to make others happy!

His family lived in the suburbs of Aleppo before fleeing the war. Now Saddam, along with his family, lives in Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

While conditions for Syrian refugees living in Lebanon are difficult, the children still have hopes and dreams.

SB OverSeas, one of the NGOs active on the ground, aims to help those children and young people achieve their dreams by providing education so that they can take their first steps towards a brighter future.

Saddam started attending “Bukra Ahla” (SB OverSeas’ informal education centre for refugee children) in 2016, where he studies Arabic, English, maths and science, and takes life skills courses.

He’s at the top of his class in all of his subjects, but English is his favourite!

Saddam is dedicated to his studies and, rain or shine, he goes to school every day.

Unfortunately, like many other refugee children, Saddam also has a full-time job to help support his family, but that doesn’t stop him from giving his all to his studies.

Aside from wanting to be a businessman, Saddam would like to visit a zoo someday.

He has a passion for animals, is filled with animal facts and is always willing to talk about them to anyone who will listen!

Despite all the hardship he’s experienced in his short life, Saddam always has a smile on his face and boundless optimism for the future!

Video by Anrike Piel

The Kidney

Imagine being 17 years old and already having experienced the death of your father and brother…

Your country is in the midst of war. A war that took your loved ones away…

Now you are faced with the traumatic decision to risk your own life staying in your country, or risk your life making the journey to safety.

You decide to leave, in the hope of a safe future..

You make it to neighbouring Lebanon, where life is not much better. You are desperate to continue your journey but you need money to pay the smugglers to help you across the next border. You don’t have any and you are not allowed to work in Lebanon…

So what do you do? Do you give up now?

You’re strong and brave, hopeful and clever. You know this can’t be the end, but you see no way out…

Then one day you do…

A man approaches you with a potential opportunity to make some money.

A lot of money.

£6500 to be exact.

He tells you all he will take from you in return, is something that you don’t really need anyway…

A kidney.

He promises you can live with one.

Your current life is not worth living anyway, even with two kidneys…so you agree.

You are super scared, but you see no other option.

The night for the operation comes and you are taken, blindfolded by a bandage, to a small room in a dark house.

You wake up in excruciating pain.

For a week you stay in this house, alternating between lying and sitting on a dusty sofa, in an attempt to get some respite from the pain. You feel groggy from the painkillers, unsure what is going on around you, but sure that this is the worst pain you have ever felt.

After a week a man comes to pull out your stitches. You have never felt pain like it. They tell you you are free to go, you hobble outside, sunlight touching your face for the first time in a week.

You find your way back to your makeshift home in Beirut. The money disappears instantly on rent and the debt you have accumulated since leaving Syria.

The pain isn’t getting better.

This is a reality for an increasing amount of Syrians as they are left unable to work and struggling to survive once leaving their country.

This is based on a true story.

To donate to our work with refugees:

Meet Abdullah

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Meet Abdullah.

Abdullah is a young Syrian teacher from Idlib.

He lives alone in Beirut, Lebanon, and works as a teacher of maths and Arabic.

Before the war in Syria started, Abdullah went to university to study Arabic language, and worked for 8 years as a sound technician in Lebanon, the country which now demands an entirely different responsibility from him.

Abdullah was all too aware that the children in Lebanon were vulnerable. Seeing their poor living conditions and education, child labour and other kinds of abuse, and knowing the harsh memories of war they would never forget, Abdullah wanted to make a positive change for the youngsters.

Although his job is exhausting, Abdullah finds joy working with children. He says the friendly team at ‘Bukra Ahla’ are “one big family”, and the fun activities they provide “strengthen the bonds between the students and the teachers”.

As well as more traditional subjects, they provide art, music, sports and brain-games which make learning more interactive, and help students build communication skills and enhance their creativity.

Abdullah believes the children in the center need special attention and care. The teachers have to give from a big heart, a sharp mind and show a high level of patience and endurance, which is understandable given the things these children have experienced.

Abdullah now plans to continue a career in education and hopes to go into higher education to develop his skills.

His mission in life is inspiring:

“To raise the general consciousness of the present and future generations by spreading useful knowledge, and embracing humanitarian values to achieve peace and prosperity in the region.”

Huge thanks to the incredible Mahmoud R. Kaj from SB OverSeas for sharing Abdullah’s story. To find out more about SB Overseas and their work, visit sboverseas.org.

The University of Life

“The bus from Beirut follows the coastal road south all the way to the town of Saida. If you are looking for the Ouzai refugee settlement you need only get off the bus when the seaside shops and restaurants appear, and turn around. To the left of a hospital’s glossy facades you will see a huge, bare concrete building. Before construction was halted the original intention was for this giant structure to become a university campus, a place of learning. The children there receive a gruelling education, a bitter irony alleviated only by the ‘SB Overseas Learning and Empowerment Centre No. 2’. Clothes and rugs hang on washing lines, which is to say that the building is obviously in use, but it looks coarse and foreboding, with dark holes where its windows should be. The effect is something like the eeriness of an old monochrome man with empty eye sockets, or a mouth with no teeth.

You can walk straight towards it over a wasteland of overgrown ditches littered with rubbish, and the closer you get the more your initial impression of a lifeless, haunted place is dispelled. Women watch you from above, and a hundred or more children are all throwing things, doing handstands, kicking the tyres of cars and hoofing a football around the forecourt. There’s a mosque adjoined to the property that would look utterly abandoned from a mile away but, again, standing next to it you can look through the gaps in the stone at the men praying. Its dome bristles with rebar like Tommy the rugrat’s head, and the single coveted football often lands in a pond of stagnant water next to the wall, followed by a little boy or girl wading gingerly after it.

There are about four hundred children in the settlement and I spent a couple of days messing around with some of them, watching their frustration, wild energy and resourcefulness. With the girls I played cards. They played very seriously, placing miniature, dog-eared cards in piles on the stone benches, slapping downwards with slightly cupped hands and, like little croupiers, gathering up the cards that flipped over. Their style of play was efficient and they only smiled when I brought my hand crashing down on the pile, failing to flip a single card.

With the boys I arm-wrestled, practised calisthenics in the shabby and dangerous playground, discussed press-up technique in depth and watched their handstand competitions. A group of them stood in a circle and pitched themselves onto their hands over and over again in unison. They practise this throughout the afternoons on their own too, so that next time they might be the last one handstanding. I came across a group of boys digging in the gravel beside the road behind the building, constructing a pathetic gravel castle. I suggested using a bottle to indent circles in a pattern around the mound of dirt, which was met with a murmur of approval.

I spoke for a while with the community leader, a man called Walid, about the sadness of what has happened to Syria, and the trauma of leaving everything behind. When we’d finished talking we walked into the dark corridor and there was a mention of the cockroach problem. Walid turned on his phone light and peered along the cracks between the breeze blocks to show us what was meant. After searching for about five seconds he beckoned us closer to see a huddle of insects, waving their antennae in protest. After that, the experience of looking along the dozens of identical walk ways was quite different. Thousands of metres of living space for the pests, some of whom emerge at night to seek warmth and moisture in babies’ ears.

Indoors, it resembles a number of things. A squat in an abandoned prison, a post-apocalyptic shelter, a hurriedly converted multi story car park. The atmosphere is heavy and damp, and the sparse light bulbs fight a losing battle. It is a very different place to Shatila where the coming and going, engine revs, movie soundtracks, pop music and gunshots clamour all day and last long after sundown. It is necessary to live there for a while to feel the desperate still sadness underneath. In the Saida settlement, one gets the feeling that you could stand in the darkness for hours and hear nothing but footsteps and babies crying. Maybe it feels so different to Shatila because of its relatively rural setting. It is socially isolated if not completely so in geographical terms. It could be its self-containment that makes it feel so prison-like. That, and the longing of its residents to go home.”

Thank you to Barney Eliot for the wonderful story, and to Anrike Piel for the beautiful photographs. Please be sure to follow our great friends SB OverSeas, and visit sboverseas.org to find out more about their amazing work.