Carlings students position outside in front of art photos of people.

The Seaquam Secondary Social Justice 12 and IB Art 11 classes created a joint campaign/series led by teacher Carling Jackson on the topic of Refugee children from Syria. The goals of this project were: to combat negative stigma (e.g. Islamophobia), bring awareness to the events that occurred forcing these children and their families (in most cases) to leave Syria (12 million total; 6 million are children), raise money for sustainable living, and give these children a voice and platform to be seen.

 Currently, our most vulnerable are at serious risk of becoming a part of the collateral damage within the backdrop of war. 

“Many children caught in the crossfire of these conflicts lose their childhood literally overnight. They’re forced to take on new roles and adult responsibilities and pressures. There’s limited opportunities to play with friends, to continue their schooling.”

Black and white photo crop of an infant's eye.

 Syrian refugee children need safe spaces where they can be children again and learn in educational environments. Without education and places to play safely with peers children face serious risks early pregnancy, exposure to sexual violence, never returning to school, gender based violence, early marriage, etc. The campaign focused on the needs of Syrian Refugees: food, clothing, healthcare, shelter, hygiene items, clean water, sanitation.  As well as a safe and respectful environment to play and go to school. With winter coming - warm clothing, shoes, heaters, bedding, gas for heat.

At the time, Canada agreed to sponsor 25,000 refugees; 2,700 of whom immigrated to the surrey, BC,  area. We also had an affiliate refugee organization that agreed to work with us allowing students to volunteer with refugees – UMOJA in surrey.

Black and white photo crop of women's hands showing the top of the ring finger missing

The project was three fold. Students came up with the idea to offer family portraits for incoming refugees. A day where they came to Seaquam and we took a family photo, framed it and gifted it to the family representing a new beginning and a fresh start away from war. The second part of the project was a campaign backed by world renowned artist JR who supported us in raising awareness to combat negative stigma associated with Syrian refugees through photography. Through anonymous portraiture capturing just the eyes of our affiliate volunteers we used the power of art and photography to transcend cultural barriers, differences, and misrepresentation in hopes of reaching people's inner humanity allowing them to realize that "WE ARE PEOPLE TOO!" 

Black and white photo crop of man's eyes

The last part involved the IB Art 11 and Social Justice students painting photos of refugees (with permissions) which will were at an art show “ART: THE LANGUAGE WE ALL SHARE” – 100% of the profits went towards refugee families to help with sustainable funding long term.

Black and white photo crop of woman's eyes