“Salam Neighbor” is an award-winning film and campaign to connect the world to refugees. On May 3, a screening of the documentary was hosted by LIVE LEARN ACT, a Winchester-based nonprofit focused on expanding global education opportunities for young children, and the Network. Over seventy-five audience members were afforded a unique opportunity to learn about what life is like in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, holding 85,000 Syrians.
The film-makers set up a tent and for a month spent every day in the camp. The connections they made with both youth and adults uncovered tremendous grief, hardship and trauma, as well as remarkable resilience, a welcoming spirit, and a strong drive to live life as fully as possible.
The film was followed by a fascinating and informative question and answer session with panelists Aba Taylor, the Network’s Executive Director, Dierdre Giblin, Asylum Lawyer with Cambridge-based Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, and Dr. Omar Salem, the Chairman of the Karam Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is to build a better future for Syria.
Most who viewed the powerful film were moved to want to help; the panelists noted a range of ways to do that. One way, of course, is to donate to the organizations on the ground in this and other refugee camps, doing what they can to enhance the lives of the occupants, such as: Save the Children (savethechildren.org); the International Rescue Committee (rescue.org); and the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, unhcr.org/en-us). One could also choose to support organizations like the Network (wmcn.org),
LIVE LEARN ACT (livelearnact.org; https://give.karamfoundation.org/fundraiser/925878), the Karam Foundation (karamfoundation.org), Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (clsacc.org), or the Council on American-Islamic Relations (cairma.org).
A strong message of the evening was that one important action is to promote this film so that more people can learn about this crisis and the refugees, whether through community-based screenings or in high schools. “It’s so easy for me to get disconnected from the struggles of the wider world living inside the Winchester bubble, and this event was a wonderful way of providing a much needed and welcome perspective,” Sarah Meehan Chiofaro.
While the need can feel overwhelming, Aba Taylor pointed out that we can start making a difference by making person-to-person connections, talking about these issues with friends and neighbors, and engaging in conversations with people who may hold differing views.
The Network thanks the primary organizers of this event, from LIVE LEARN ACT: Stephanie Smith, Cofounder and Co-President; Christine Kowalczuk, Co-President, and Heidi Rosenfeld, Program Director.