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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.

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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/

Papers: An Incredible Day

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The dust is still settling, and the team still recovering from the most incredible day yesterday.

We had everything…

Actual shelters from the Calais Jungle, an inflatable boat from the shores of Lesvos, a UNHCR tent from Za’atari camp in Jordan and even the exact wifi access point that we have been installing into camps, up and running, so you could connect to Jangala wifi!

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Live music, poetry, panel discussions, films, Eritrean food prepared by young refugees living in Kent and so much amazing artwork…

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(and all in Jungle time!)

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But best of all was the incredible people that yesterday brought together…

I was humbled and overwhelmed by the sheer loyalty and compassion and power and size of the amazing community we are sharing this journey with.

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From long-term volunteers, to residents of the camp I hadn’t seen for ages, to so many of you guys I had never met before…I have so much love for all of you, I could cry just thinking about it.

Thank you to everyone who came. Now I believe more than ever, that together we really can do anything! (Including saving Alpha’s shelter from being bulldozed and rebuilding it in the Barbican!!!!)

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Pictures by Mike Smith @threecommonnames

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Just In Time

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This last year has been the craziest of our lives. An intense, emotional whirlwind.

A few weeks ago, Nils and I left things in the very capable hands of Dan and Jess, and went to South Africa for a bit of a break.

We went to a festival called AfrikaBurn, deep in the desert, with no wifi and no phone signal, no branding, no money, nothing for sale, just sharing and gifting. We needed a chance to recuperate, to take some time away and to reflect on everything we have experienced.

At this festival we met a film crew who were making a film about AfrikaBurn and the community it brings together. We got chatting and told them our story, which they decided to incorporate into the narrative of their film.

Their film has just been released and we wanted to share it with you guys.

It tells the story of how The Worldwide Tribe began, but also hopefully demonstrates that we are normal people, with normal lives, normal interests and hobbies and passions and dreams, outside of the work we do. I forgot that for a while, as this work encompassed me.

What I have learnt though, is that although our work doesn’t define us, it has changed us all, for the better, and we’ve learnt and grown from the incredible people we have met, and the crazy, varied experiences we continue to have.

You never know what’s round the corner, what you’ll be doing this time next week.. You never know what life will throw at you, or how each day will play out.

All we can do is embrace every minute. Walk into each day with open arms and every situation with an open heart. From the festivals to the refugee camps. Every experience, every moment, every detail.

Just in Time.

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Synchronicity Is Not To Be Taken Lightly

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Synchronicity is not to be taken lightly.

Before me and Nils arrived in South Africa a couple of weeks ago, we didn’t know anyone, but I want to share with you the amazing outcome of a chance encounter…

The first two people we met when we arrived at Afrika Burn were filmmakers Ryan and Levi. They were making a conscious film about the unique, amazing gifting community created for one week only, deep in the desert. The film focused on the impact the festival has on people’s lives, and what elements of the experience they could implement into their day to day.

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Me and Nils had the intention of leaving our work with refugees behind, just for this week, so we could recharge, and talk about something else. But naturally we shared our story with our new friends…

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Ryan and Levi are also constantly working to tell the stories we don’t hear in the mainstream media…and they were intrigued by ours. As we talked we drew many parallels between the AfrikaBurn community and the Jungle in Calais, whilst highlighting the contrasts, the light and dark. We decided to collaborate..

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Together we were able to create something beautiful….a vision for the future… Together we had context of the wider world and issues that society is facing, combined with an optimistic dream for better, and were together experiencing a tangible example…AfrikaBurn.

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We spent the week making this film, talking to people, understanding why thousands of comfortable, privileged individuals would SPEND money to come to a place with no money, no facilities, no home comforts, no nothing, whilst for others, like those in Calais, they had a comfortable existence ripped away and are forced to live in camps with nothing.

The film is currently being edited and we will keep you updated!!

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No One Can Take On The World’s Problems

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When I decided to go to South Africa, I went with the intention of taking a bit of a break. I’ve taken on a lot of trauma over the last few months and been exposed to pain and suffering I was completely oblivious and naive to less than a year ago.

One year ago, my life was simple and straightforward. The hardest things I dealt with were things like break-ups and the odd argument amongst friends. Yes I read the news but I was always able to close the newspaper and forget. It didn’t affect me. It was all far away…

Then I went to ‘the Jungle’ in Calais and my life changed. As our work quickly extended from Calais to Lesvos, then to Turkey and Jordan, no longer could I read a newspaper or watch reports on TV about boats sinking and children drowning and people being deported to their death and Iranians sewing their lips closed in protest, because I had been there, and seen it, and experienced this pain first hand. The people going through it had become my friends.

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Then I went to South Africa for a holiday, and as we drove from the airport to the centre of Cape Town, what did we pass, but what looked exactly like several sprawling Jungle’s lining the road sides. The only difference was that the shelters were made from corrugated iron instead of wood and tarpaulin.

‘Townships.’ I’d heard this word, but again, it was far away and didn’t affect me. What could I do?

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It made me realise that no one can take on the world’s problems. It’s an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality that I totally understand. It’s a self-preservation thing. No one can take the world’s burdens on their shoulders, feel the pain of world conflict in their hearts, it would be too much, and it wouldn’t help anyone…

HOWEVER, in England, in Europe, we can no longer use physical distance as a barrier or boundary to caring or taking action. The refugee crisis is real and history in the making and happening all around us. And we are powerful, there’s so much we can actively do, and when you can actually do something, it feels good.

I think it’s a beautiful balance. You can’t do everything, you can’t help everyone. Some things ARE far away and our of our control, but we have a responsibility to do what we can. Whether it’s the refugee crisis in Europe, or post-apartheid South Africa, whether it’s your local animal rescue centre or the old lady next door, we all have the power to use the resources available to us to do something. And we all have resources. You might be a teacher, a builder, a lawyer or a student. You don’t need to have money to donate, or even time to volunteer, but you can share a post, spread a message and embark in open conversation inspired by love and unity, and that’s enough.

Photos on film by Nils O’Hara

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From the Refugee Crisis in Europe to The South African Desert

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Me and Nils are just back from South Africa, where our aim for some time off from refugee camps didn’t quite go to plan…

After the most intense 10 months of my life, which saw me go from working in fashion, to working 24/7 with refugees….I knew I needed a holiday.

Even though it felt selfish and wrong and I struggled with the idea of leaving behind not just the workload but the friends I have made, to struggle through their days in the camp, I knew I was at breaking point. I knew that this was the self care I needed to be able to continue, that it would enable me to move forward more effectively, with a clearer mind, more motivated and passionate than ever…

Without the break, I knew I was nearing the point where I could no longer continue.

I had given everything…

So me and Nils went to South Africa. We had been told about AfrikaBurn, Africa’s equivalent to Burning Man, a huge (12,000 people strong) creative event deep in the South African desert. There is no wifi, no power, no phone signal, no shade, no showers, nothing for sale (you bring everything you need), for an entire week.

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110 kilometres along a rough dirt road with no fuel stops and very few signs of humanity, it seemed the perfect place for us to forget, to switch off, to let go even for a week, talking about some other things and meeting people unconnected entirely to the refugee crisis. This was the place we wanted to recover, recuperate and reset our batteries, redefine our vision and prepare ourselves for reality, for returning back to the problems of the crazy ‘real world’ in which we find ourselves living

Well…that didn’t quite go to plan…

When we arrived to our theme camp we immediately made friends. Everyone welcomed us with open arms and although we knew no one in South Africa at all before this trip, we soon found ourselves part of a true little community. One of the first things someone told me was,

“At Afrika Burn you can approach anyone with a hug, and they hug you back harder.”

This turned out to be very true.

AfrikaBurn is a demonstration of a community functioning without money. A gifting culture where people come together and share. People are open, and come together as one. Anything you need is provided for you, somehow. You put out the ask, and there it is, manifesting itself right before your eyes.

It is proof that if we all work together and support each other, we will want for nothing…

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As the week went on this concept became clearer and clearer, more and more true. When we hit obstacles, (food going off or tyres bursting), people rallied round to deal with them communally, with love in their hearts, turning adversity into uplifting feats of human spirit and strength.

Me and Nils had gone to get away from the life we were leading, to escape the reality of the camps we were spending all our time in, but the parallels between The Jungle in Calais and the community we had created for a week in the desert, were constantly at the forefront of my mind. I was consistently, regularly reminded of my friends, struggling to survive. What has struck me, and I always say so, about the refugee camps in which I have spent time, across Europe and the Middle East, is the community spirit, the love and support for one another, the realisation that underneath language, culture, religion, race and nationality, we are all the same, all human, and we all live on this world together, The idea that if you’re not eating, that if you’re going hungry, my food doesn’t taste as good either. The concept that I’d rather enjoy half my sandwich, than eat the whole thing whilst watching you slowly starving….

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Over the course of this week I came to the realisation that in some parts of the world, people are being devastatingly stripped of their homes, their cars, their jobs and their lives. They are forced out of their countries and into refugee camps, to live in the mud, without dignity. In the meantime, in other parts of the world, people are willingly choosing to leave behind the comforts they enjoy on a daily basis, and making the journey, deep into the desert to live without the showers, toilets, facilities and amenities they take for granted during their day to day lives and experiencing this left with me with the most beautiful realisation. Here I was, alongside 12,000 other people, stripping back from the materialistic stuff I am surrounded by in my life. That same consumeristic stuff which is so lacking in the Calais Jungle.

And suddenly I understood. Suddenly it was all so clear.

We are all searching, searching for happiness, for purpose and for meaning. And this stuff is not conducive to these outcomes. In actual fact, much of our western society lacks the very essence of this sense of unity and community support which is so prevalent in the Jungle.

So basically, I realised, that wherever I am in the world, whether it’s a refugee camp in Calais or a crazy, hedonistic, creative whirlwind, alongside 12,000 others privileged enough to be able to make their way deep into the desert of South Africa, one thing remained constant….

We are all in this together, and when we share, when we give and when we love, things work. Life works. When we lead with our hearts, we end up receiving more than we ever expected possible, and end up richer than ever before, trust me.

Now back into civilisation again, and with my laptop in front of me, I am able to share the fact that AfrikaBurn will remain a true example of a utopian society in which love and oneness prevail. There are many elements of this amazing experience I will 100% be feeding back into my day to day life, alongside the huge lessons I have learnt from spending time in Calais, of which the parallels are unexpected yet clear:

Whether it’s due to desperation and lack of choice, or the need to explore radical self reliance away from your home comforts even just for a week; when faced with adversity and difficulty, human spirit, love and support for one another come out top, yet again.

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