Save the Children photography project sees Syrian teenagers document life within the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan

Save The Children has launched a photography project on Instagram, which features images taken by 12 Syrian teenagers who live inside the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. Shown here are a selection of images from the feed, which document a mix of everyday moments of joy as well as the harsh conditions of the camp.

The Za’atari camp is now a temporary home to over 80,000 refugees from Syria, including many children and young people. The My Own Account project forms part of a wider programme by Save the Children that has been taking place for the past two years at the camp, offering photography classes for teenagers and encouraging them to share their stories through images. With the Instagram project (which can be found @InsideZaatari), the hope is that the unique perspective of the teens in the camp can reach a wider audience.

I always wanted to get an education but I am afraid that I will not be able to continue going to school because my dad may decide to stop me going. I have young siblings and I may need to help my mother to look after them or he may decide that I should get married.
“I always wanted to get an education but I am afraid that I will not be able to continue going to school because my dad may decide to stop me going. I have young siblings and I may need to help my mother to look after them or he may decide that I should get married.”
Barbecuing in Za'atari.It was Friday and Friday is most of the time a barbecue day. The meet is not there yet but preparing the barbecue.
“Barbecuing in Za’atari. It was Friday and Friday is most of the time a barbecue day. The meat is not there yet but we are preparing the barbecue.”
I was playing, dancing pretending I was dancing like an Indian. You can not really see what I was doing
“I was playing, dancing, pretending I was dancing like an Indian. You cannot really see what I was doing.”

“As part of the psycho-social work that we do with traumatised kids is lots of focus on arts and crafts, and writing their stories and drawing their stories,” says Jess Crombie, deputy director of creative at Save the Children UK. “A well-known technique to help kids get over traumatic situations is to help them share their stories.

“My team were going out to Za’atari really regularly and documenting the kids in the camp to gather content for fundraising, and we met a lot of these teenage kids, and they were really articulate, challenging, engaged, angry, interesting kids,” Crombie continues. “They had loads to say and had no place to say it.”

The Save the Children team originally conceived of the Instagram idea as a week-long project but its success is such that it has now been running for two years, and has reached a point where the charity feels it should be publicised to a wider audience.

It was officially launched last night at a charity event held at Mother ad agency, which is supporting the project and exhibiting photos from it in its foyer gallery space, and has also published a book of the images. The hope is that the teens will gain followers on Instagram, and that the project will inspire people to donate to the wider photography and arts programme at Za’atari, which is now in need of further funding.

I like to play with balloons. We believe that if we write a wish on the balloon and we let the balloon fly away, the wish will become true
“I like to play with balloons. We believe that if we write a wish on the balloon and we let the balloon fly away, the wish will become true.”
“These guys are always playing in my backyard and making a lot of noise. They are really annoying us.”
“These guys are always playing in my backyard and making a lot of noise. They are really annoying us.”
“I do not like people to take a picture of my face. It is ok to take a picture of me but not of my face. I have scars on my face that I got when I fell off my bike. I don't like to show them.”
“I do not like people to take a picture of my face. It is OK to take a picture of me but not of my face. I have scars on my face that I got when I fell off my bike. I don’t like to show them.”

A variety of emotions, and styles of approach, are expressed in the photographs, which display a mix of ordinary family scenes that will be familiar to people all over the world, as well as the specific circumstances of the teens.

One shot shows a dense dust cloud rolling in in the near distance, which appears both majestic and deadly. The effects of the cloud can then be further seen in a film created by one of the kids and shown below. The film aspect of the project is backed both by Save the Children and another NGO, Voices of the Children, and aims to allow the refugees to further express their stories, as well as, in this instance, their hopes for the future.

“This picture was taken by Waseem with my camera. I was thinking about my girlfriend. Her name is Rana; she lives in the camp. She is 14 years old. I have known her for two years. She knows I am in love with her and that I want to marry her.”
“This picture was taken by Waseem with my camera. I was thinking about my girlfriend. Her name is Rana; she lives in the camp. She is 14 years old. I have known her for two years. She knows I am in love with her and that I want to marry her.”
“It is really beautiful to find some grass. It reminds us of Syria in spring. It is so dry around the camp.”
“It is really beautiful to find some grass. It reminds us of Syria in spring. It is so dry around the camp.”
“When I saw the sand storm, I was so surprised and scared at the same time. I would have never thought that a storm could be so big. I went home and hid under my pillow”
“When I saw the sand storm, I was so surprised and scared at the same time. I would have never thought that a storm could be so big. I went home and hid under my pillow.””

“Most people’s view of a refugee camp is an overview of lots of tents or a few specific shots of people looking limp and sad inside a camp,” says Crombie. “This is a window into real life at the camp. That’s what so exciting about this project from our point of view, we don’t get to communicate in this way very often. We don’t get to show the everyday-ness of life in a camp, and therefore what it’s like to be a human being in a camp, not a number.”

Crombie points out that the average time that someone spends in a refugee camp is 17 years. “For these kids there’s this horrible level of uncertainty, they don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

“I stole the dog from some people outside the camp. I know it is bad, but I love animals.”
“When I grow up, I want to become a boxer.”
“When I grow up, I want to become a boxer.”
“I make small hills of dirt with the hammer so I can kick into them after. I hate activities, which are quiet.”
“I make small hills of dirt with the hammer so I can kick into them after. I hate activities which are quiet.”

Follow the My Own Account project on Instagram @InsideZaatari; To find out more about Save the Children’s work in Syria, visit savethechildren.org.uk/about-us/emergencies/syria-appeal.

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