A little more than a year ago I helped to tell Loury’s story, along with Molly Bernstein and the Fuller Project for International Reporting. As journalists we often tell stories and don’t have the resources or opportunity to follow-up after they are published. Fortunately, I was able to go back and tell Loury’s story again this year; this time with the lovely Dalia Mortada and once again in collaboration with the Fuller Project for International Reporting.
Last year when the story was published, there was an outpouring of support. Someone even donated a violin. But it wasn’t enough to change Loury’s life in the longterm. She’s given up on going back to school but hasn’t stopped learning. She now speaks Turkish and is working on her English. Because she is working, her brother is able to go to school. She says this is what matters to her now.
Sometimes I still don’t believe this even happened, but here’s the video to remind me it did. I was beyond honored (and terrified) to share my experience of traveling with Syrian Ziad Altaha from Turkey to Norway at TEDxLausanne.
Weeks before the event, I was struggling to craft an end to the speech. As I was going through old boxes, I came across a book from my mom and opened it. Inside the front cover it said, “May you make every journey one that brings you closer to yourself and others.”
That’s it! The stories I tell are my journeys, and I’m grateful for each one.
Thank you Ziad Altaha for believing in the power of your story and helping me remember why every story, life, person matters.
Last September colleague and friend Danielle Villasana and I started editing and writing for The Everyday Projects Medium publication. Back in July 2014, we were living in Lima, Peru, and the work of Everyday Africa caught our eye. We wanted to bring its mission– “an attempt to form a more complete portrayal of life on the continent than the mainstream media allows”–to Latin America too. So along with two other colleagues, we started Everyday Latin America. Since then, we’ve met several of the contributors to the accounts and Everyday Africa founders Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill.
The Everyday accounts on Instagram are all volunteer. The photographers contributing to them do so out of concern and commitment to the craft of journalism and the regions where we live and work. Being part of an industry on a shifting and often shaky foundation, The Everyday Projects has been a ray of light to me, and I’m thrilled the Medium publication has allowed me to become more involved with telling stories that I think matter.
Here are a few of the articles I most enjoyed writing:
Last fall I traveled to four countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Nigeria and India – to witness and document what people are doing to stop violence against women and girls. Oxfam recently released the series of videos that tell the stories of women learning self defense in Jordan, theater and sports creating better gender equality among adolescents in Nigeria, LGBTQIA individuals in Lebanon finding refuge at MOSAIC, the government and private sector working together to help survivors of violence in India, and economic and social opportunities bringing new life to women in Bangladesh.
Hoor saw the sea for the first time in Istanbul. When she looks at it, she says she feels calm and comforted.
Important stories are usually difficult to listen to and also to tell. I recently photographed Hoor to depict the story of an Afghan teenage girl in Istanbul, written by Fariba Nawa. Hoor escaped a forced marriage in Afghanistan, defied deportation in Iran and crossed the border into Turkey with smugglers, and without her family. Once in Turkey, she was raped by one of the smugglers. As the title of the article reads, unfortunately the refugee trail can be as dangerous as the war left behind.
Hoor is now living at a state-run orphanage, studying Turkish and in the process of getting her Turkish residency. In her notebook she jots down Turkish words and their translations in her native Dari. Hoor left three younger sisters behind in Afghanistan, who she says inspire her to learn Turkish and look for work so she can find a way to bring them to Istanbul.