OneMinutesJr workshop in Turkey

Photos: UNICEF / Chris Schuepp / 2014

Photos: UNICEF / Chris Schuepp / 2014

Almost 16,000 people from Syria live in the Kahramanmaraş Camp in the South of Turkey, more than 5,000 of them are children. 15 of these children have the opportunity to produce OneMinutesJr videos about their lives in a workshop organized this week by UNICEF Turkey.

Day 1

The training takes place in the child-friendly space of the camp where the school tents are located as well as the containers for workshops and art classes. On regular days, 4,200 children attend school here in a morning and an afternoon shift. 125 teachers are volunteering to make sure the children don’t fall further behind after leaving their home country because of the war.

During the introductory session of the workshop we show films produced by children from similar camps in Jordan and Lebanon as well as a “best of”-compilation of OneMinutesJr videos from around the world. The participants, five girls and ten boys aged 12-15 are very interested and do a great job in analyzing the films and expressing what they liked and what they didn’t like so much.

The next step on this first day of the 5-day workshop is to teach them the basics of film making. This starts with watching films and understanding how they were produced and why they were produced in this specific way. Camera movements, camera perspectives, video and audio features and other technical issues are discussed and help the youngsters understand how they can build their own stories in the days to come.

The afternoon is reserved for the brainstorming process and individual discussions with the participants. Here more than almost anywhere else our psychological skills are needed. Many of the children have seen terrible things happening during the war in Syria before they and their families fled the country. Usually they are not supposed to talk about the war in the child friendly space or draw pictures of the war, but since we have an “open brainstorming session”, they do use this to bring back the memories of Syria.

The fact that the still bring up these stories means that they have not been able to fully cope with their trauma yet. It challenges us as trainers and adults responsible for them this week, so that we try to find a a way to turn these negative emotions into positive films. It’s a fine line, but today we are very successful and the joint creativity of children and trainers leads to some really cool film ideas that will be put into practice in the days to come.

Day 2

KAHRAMANMARAŞ, Turkey, 24 April 2014 - On day 2 of the OneMinutesJr workshop in the Kahramanmaraş Camp we focus on the story development with the 15 young participants.

One thing is clear from the very beginning: the children are somewhere between hope and despair. Many of them are traumatized from the events they witnessed in Syria and are yet to come to terms with their new reality here in the camp. They go to school, they live with their parents, brothers and sisters in tents, so in principal it’s a normal life, but still: they are living in a camp surrounded with a fence and their future remains unclear.

Amin (14) from Aleppo tells us about the images in his head. When he closes his eyes, he remembers Syria as the beautiful place from his early childhood with hills, a river, an apple tree and his family’s house. But when he opens his eyes again, he sees tents, as far as the eye can see.

The camp here in Kahramanmaraş now hosts 16,000 people, several thousand more than the original capacity. Divided into 12 section with up to 500 tents each, the camp is a spread out over a huge portion of land on the outskirts of the city. Due to the fact that the original capacity has been exceeded, extra space is scarce. Mohammed (15) is also from the Nothern Syrian city of Aleppo and he missed his local football field. Here in the camp the facilities are very limited and so he and his friends have to create their own little football field between tents and fences.

Umar from Latakya has been here for eight months now. His family lost their house during the war and had to flee the country. The 14-year-old boy wants to become an architect and his dream is to build a new house for his family when they return to Syria after the war. Until then, he is making plans and he is practicing. His first draft is a small house made from wooden ice-cream sticks he picked up and collected in the camp. With the limited opportunities here, the most creative are the ones who will succeed.

Yazid (13) from Idlip remembers the beautiful garden they had back in Syria before the war. All the trees had been planted by his father. Now Yazid is sad and about to cry when he tells us that his father passed away a few months ago here in the camp. How to save the situation and give Yazid a perspective? We go back to the roots, literally, and Yazid will plant a tree, the first tree in the camp. In honor of his father and to grow new hope for the future.

Day 3

KAHRAMANMARAŞ, Turkey, 25 April 2014 - On the third day of the workshop in the Kahramanmaraş Camp we start filming in various locations around the camp.

Mohammed (13) from Aleppo never wanted to leave Syria in the first place. He thought the war would not take too long, but then his family decided to leave the country and go across the border to Turkey. Mohammed thought they would be here for a few weeks or so, but it has been two years since they arrived in Kahramanmaraş.

Two years of uncertainty, two years of not knowing what the future will bring, two years of waiting for something to happen. In his OneMinutesJr film Mohammed symbolizes the long wait by walking through the camp by himself and throwing a rock up to catch it and throw it up again. And again and again. Until he gets to a pile of rocks where he places his rock on top of the others. One rock per day, a symbol of the seemingly endless time in the camp.

Another Mohammed, also from Aleppo but already 15 years old, is complaining about the lack of space in the camp. He loves playing football, but unfortunately the facilities are very limited. 16,000 people live on a square with a circumference of about six kilometers. The camp is divided into different neighborhoods with up to 500 tents each. Everything is surrounded by a barbed wire fence and so there is a critical lack of open spaces for sports and for children to play. Mohammed therefore creates his own little football field, but it sure leaves many wishes open.

Wherever we go in the camp, we are surrounded by tens of children and adults. They all want to know what we are doing and when we film a scene for the videos, we have a huge audience already. People come out of their tents, they eat sunflower seeds, they enjoy seeing something different for a change. Most tents have a TV set and are connected to a satellite dish, but that is the only sort of entertainment available in the camp.

For the children, however, there are the school tents and the child friendly space administered by the Turkish Red Crescent and UNICEF. The center is like a “safe haven” and also the place where we hold the workshop this week. At the end of an interesting day out in the camp, we get back to our base and wrap-up the day before we start with the rest of the filming tomorrow morning.

Day 4

KAHRAMANMARAŞ, Turkey, 26 April 2014 - Day 4 of the OneMinutesJr workshop in the Kahramanmaraş Camp sees the whole group out filming their movies again. We only got less than half of the filming done so far, so we spend the entire day roaming through the camp, getting footage in tents, in the streets, near the fence, simply everywhere.

But first we have a visit in the child friendly space by the UNICEF Turkey Representative Dr. Ayman Abulaban. He reminds us that tomorrow we will have a “big visit” by the President of Germany and that we need to be able to show a couple of films and ask a number of questions. So with this in mind, we are off into the streets of the Kahramanmaraş Camp.

As mentioned before, Yazid (13) from Idlip remembers the beautiful garden his family had back in Syria before the war. We falsely reported the other day that Yazid will plant the very first tree in the camp in his OneMinutesJr video. Now that we have spent a bit more time in the camp, we have seen several small “gardens” with little plants. This gives them a sense of purpose, a sense of normality and also something to do and look after. It changes the color of the camp from grey to green and that’s exactly what Yazid wants to show with his film that he is producing today.

And if Yazid is successful with his little garden, then maybe in the future Ammar will come into the picture. Ammar is 14 years old and comes from Aleppo. Back home he used to help his mother in the kitchen. Now he is preparing the lunch for his family in their tent in the camp. He shows great skills in cooking and wants to open a restaurant when he and his family return to Syria.

By the end of the day, we have all but one videos filmed and now we can focus on the editing and the German President’s visit to the child friendly space tomorrow.

Day 5

KAHRAMANMARAŞ, Turkey, 27 April 2014 - The last day of the OneMinutesJr workshop in the Kahramanmaraş Camp has come, but there is still so much on the agenda that it will be difficult to finish everything in time…

The child friendly space where we have been holding the workshop over the last few days is occupied today. The President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Joachim Gauck, and his partner, the UNICEF Germany patroness, Ms Daniela Schadt, are visiting Kahramanmaraş today and will pay a visit to the children’s facility run by UNICEF Turkey and the Turkish Red Crescent at around 11 am. So we need to move to one of the school tents nearby and try to work more on the finalization of the movies.

Then the German President arrives and with him a great number of journalists. Only a few of them are allowed into the child friendly space container where some younger children are performing a song and a small theatre play for the guest. Then it’s our turn and we can show two films to the visitors from Germany and the UNICEF Representative in Turkey. Mohammed and Majad are very proud that we the premiere of their films on the big screen happens in front of such a special audience. One of the the films is rather sad, the other one much happier and this is a mirror image of the atmosphere among the children in the camp. They are happy children at times, but most of them have already seen terrible things and all of them miss their homes.

After the visit everybody is ready to work on the last few details of our OneMinutesJr films. A couple of Syrian teachers come over to the workshop room and help with translations from Arabic into English. The voice-overs take a lot of time as well and so it takes the whole afternoon to get everything done.

Finally – just before dark – we are ready to show all 15 films to the participants. The father of two of the girls from the group comes to the child friendly space to ask why his daughters are not home yet. We invite him to watch the videos with us and to see his proud face lighten up with joy after seeing the films his daughters and the other children produced gives a little glimpse of what we have achieved together here this week.

Now we give out the certificates of participation and take the mandatory group photos before we wrap up this truly amazing and encouraging OneMinutesJr workshop.

Click Kahramanmaraş OneMinutesJr playlist to watch all 15 videos.

For more videos, go to www.theoneminutesjr.org or the UNICEF CEECIS youtube channel