When you put cameras in the hands of children who've experienced displacement, tragedy and loss at such a critical young age, you're bound to witness something special.

On November 7, Syrian and Lebanese children from the Wadi Khaled area of North Lebanon rushed into the Art Lounge in Karantina for the opening night of the 3ayune (My Eyes) exhibit. It was the culmination of seven months of an intensive photograph workshop which brought together 46 Lebanese children and 46 Syrian children led by two professional photographers. The initiative was part of an ongoing collaboration between the US Embassy in Beirut and Cives Mundi, an NGO which hosts relief projects, training programs, and cultural festivals all over the world.

The children - all between the ages of 12 and 16 - jumped from photograph to photograph, their eyes filled with pride and accomplishment as they pointed out their work to onlookers.

The head of the Cives Mundi mission in Lebanon, Natalia Sancha, shared her reasons for choosing photography as an artistic outlet for these children, saying, “I am a professional photographer, and I find that photography doesn't only have a technical side to it, but an extremely psychological side as well. Photography allows you to express yourself in ways you otherwise cannot.” Sancha, who accompanied the children throughout the workshop series, added that she saw major changes in them as a result. “They were shy and didn't want to mix with each other in the beginning. But after we pushed them they became confident and motivated to do the work, it was remarkable.”

Salim Abdel Nabi, one of the young men who participated in the workshop, shared a photo he took of his cousin working at a construction site. Nabi explained that his cousin's older brother had passed away, which meant he had to leave school to work at the site. "I decided to honor him by taking his picture. He loved it,” Nabi said. Another participant in the workshop was 12-year-old Fatmah who said, “I felt so artistic during the workshop, if I had my own camera I would want to take pictures of the entire world.”

US Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale shared with Beirut.com his thoughts on the exhibit: “I think the exhibit speaks for itself; it helped bring the children together with a common interest and resulted in building their skills with a shared experience.” The ambassador went on to detail the role the US has played in relief efforts for the Syrian people and their host countries, citing that “the United States government has donated over $600 million in relief funds, and although most of that goes towards food and shelter, small projects like this are just as valuable in promoting a sense of togetherness and family, showing that despite troubled times, there is hope.”

Two children who participated in the workshop gifted Ambassador Hale the photographs they took. “It is so wonderful to see what these children can accomplish and to see how they manage to appreciate art despite the conditions they live in,” said Beth Khalil, an attendee who was being pulled from photograph to photograph by proud children excited to show her their work.

The photographs, on display at Art Lounge until November 21, are all for sale. Proceeds from the exhibit will go to implementing photography lessons and development programs for Syrian refugees and Lebanese host families.

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3ayune (My Eyes) Photography... Exhibition (Photography)


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