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Films for Syrian refugees: Do it Yourself, Do it Together

Maha Taki

Project Manager, BBC Media Action

An elderly man, one eye milky blue with age, peers into the camera. Immediately behind him lie neat rows of white tarpaulin shelters, walls flapping in the wind.

“Each person builds his own shelter,” he says matter-of-factly, “Once he’s done, he goes on to help his neighbour.”

Standing tall in the dusty courtyard, he explains why; “We’re all Syrians here, and we’re all one.”
Satisfied with the footage they’ve captured at the Beqaa refugee camp in Lebanon, housing over 400,000 Syrian refugees – the film crew wrap up.

The man they’ve just filmed is just one of the two million Syrians who have fled conflict in Syria since it began in 2011. His message of self-sufficiency and solidarity makes up part of a series of 25 documentaries, mini-dramas and animations providing practical tips for refugees.

The films – produced by BBC Media Action in collaboration with local and Syrian film-makers, artists and actors since 2013 – cover a range of topics including access to education, aid, legal advice and missing family tracing services.

Now that the crisis is entering its fifth year, there is concern that these services and facilities are dwindling.

Do it yourself, do it together

With this in mind, our most recent set of films is themed on the different ‘DIY’ ways refugees can help themselves (and each other) cope with life as a refugee. Born out of consultations with aid-agencies and refugees, simple ‘how to’ films and documentaries – like the one featuring the elderly man in the Beqaa camp – provide refugees with useful tips on topics ranging from building safe and stable shelters to purifying water, looking after new-born babies and treating common conditions such as scabies and lice.

Reaching refugees

The new set of films is ready, but how can refugees watch them?

Reaching refugees with information is challenging to say the least. Syrian refugees are highly dispersed in Jordan and Lebanon and in some areas, access to electricity, let alone a TV is a luxury.
Our solution is simple. Show the films in places where Syrian refugees need to go.

The films provide a useful and entertaining distraction for families waiting in long lines to renew paper work and access aid services at UNHCR refugee registration centers. Information centres run by Relief International in Lebanon – providing access to free wifi and phone charging facilities – also allow people to watch, and download the films to their mobile phones.

Film for refugees

In human disaster stories like Syria, much of the media we see is about refugees for international audiences. What’s unique about our work in Lebanon and Jordan is that we’re producing films for refugees, not just about them.

The films are playing a crucial role in making sure refugees know about their rights, the services they can access, the places they can go to for help – and most importantly, how they can help themselves.

Related links

Watch the films on Vimeo
More about BBC Media Action’s work in Lebanon and Jordan
Follow BBC Media Action on Twitter and Facebook
Go back to the BBC Media Action website

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