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Some students want better grades. Others want to make the basketball team. Over 187,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon just imagine attending school.
When it comes to powerful international development campaigns, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) continues to lead by example. #ImagineaSchool is a multimedia campaign launched by UNICEF Lebanon, giving a rare insight into the lives of Syrian refugee children and their struggle for education. Through the campaign, we are invited to hear and share their stories, as well as support their cause.
According to UNICEF, around half of Syrian school-aged children – over 187,000 – are out of school in Lebanon, which hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world. Instead of getting an education, thousands of Syrian children, some as young as six years old, are working in agriculture, factories, construction and on the streets. #ImagineaSchool provides an intimate look into the lives of these and other children.
What makes this campaign so powerful is its interactive documentary, which immerses viewers into the children’s daily struggles for education. The documentary invites viewers to choose from a selection of challenges that they themselves faced in school. Once these challenges are selected, text and video testimonials tell the story of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon who have faced similar challenges, albeit in a much worse context. Some of them are no longer in school and others continue to struggle to stay in school.
Through powerful before and after photos, we see that that all five of the classes presented in the documentary have lost a significant amount of students. We hear about why some children don’t go to school – “I want to work to help my family. I wish I could study in the afternoon,” says one child – and what children that are in school struggle through everyday. “Here, we have a problem with the bus. It’s small so sometimes we fall out of the window,” says one student. “They always hit us at school, so what do I get out of going here?” says another.
But despite these struggles, hope remains.
“I want to learn and read more. I want to become a great journalist and report the news,” says a young boy. And in another profile, a young girl underscores the power of her education: “If something happened tomorrow in Syria, my knowledge would be a weapon.”
To mark its 70th anniversary, UNICEF has invited writers from all over the world to pen a short story on the theme ‘what I want for every child’. Hundreds of writers have participated in the ‘Tiny Stories’ campaign, including famous authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Paulo Coelho.
Everyone is invited to share these stories or their own on Facebook and Twitter via the #foreverychild hashtag. Visit the campaign website to learn more.
But before you go, here’s my story:
One day, I met a genie who claimed he could give me anything I wanted for my child.
“What is it you want for your child?” the genie asked confidently? “Is it health, safety and the best education?”
“That’s good, but not quite it,” I said.
“Very well, do you also want to equip your child with the tools for wonder, adventure and possibility?” he responded.
“That’s even better, but still not it,” I said.
Growing frustrated, the genie responded: “You are very demanding! But I know what is missing from the list: eternal peace, love and hope.”
“Still better, but not enough,” I maintained.
And now the genie was distressed. “Surely these are the greatest gifts you could give to your child! What more could you want?”
And I responded: “What I want for my child is what I want for every child. Can you grant me that?”
UNICEF aims to raise awareness of the refugee and migrant issue, which it says is “first and foremost a children’s crisis.”
Featured image: Screenshot from the #illustrators4children campaign on Instagram. Illustration by Ayumi Takahashi
From the funny to the shocking to the downright heartbreaking, these powerful videos compiled by the Social Media for Development blog, effectively raise awareness about pressing international development and humanitarian issues.
These are the types of videos communications professionals working in the development and humanitarian fields should strive towards. Take a look and see for yourselves via the link above, or view a selection below. You’ll notice that all of them tell personal or compelling stories, while using powerful imagery. What’s more, all of the videos are under two minutes, and a few are under one. This is an essential approach to maximize views and engagement in today’s attention economy.