I CAN POINT TO THE EXACT MOMENT WHEN I DECIDED THAT I NEEDED TO TRY AND DO SOMETHING TO HELP THE PEOPLE CAUGHT UP IN THE REFUGEE CRISIS: THE IMAGE OF ALAN KURDI, A THREE YEAR OLD KURDISH BOY, WASHED UP ON THE BEACH AS HIS JOURNEY TO A BETTER LIFE WAS CUT SHORT, MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO LOOK AWAY FROM THE SUFFERING THAT HE AND SO MANY OTHERS HAD EXPERIENCED IN THAT LAST FIVE YEARS.
Seeing the image from the relative comfort of my Brighton studio, galvanised me to want to do something in a way that nothing had before. Living in a country with a media that thrives off the proliferation of bad news and misery, it’s so easy to become desensitised to the horrors of the refugee crisis, but I decided then, that if the image of little Alan didn’t inspire me to help in some way, nothing would.
At the time ‘help’ seemed like such a big word, but I knew that as a digital designer and artist, I really wanted to try and find a way in which I could put those skills to work.
I contacted several local charities, but quickly found that their focus was mainly gathering clothing and supplies to take across the Channel and that they were often over serviced anyway.
Then I came across Prosper and went to one of their evenings. Prosper’s aim was to gather a digital and technological response to the human suffering of what the media was now calling a refugee ‘crisis’.
The idea was to draw upon Brighton’s wealth of digital expertise for the greater good.
During that first meet up, I met some lovely, like-minded and creative people. In the coming months, we formed our own little group whose main purpose was to create something that would help raise awareness of the refugee crisis and counter the negative rhetoric that was already beginning to surround it.
In creating the US & THEM project, we hope to not only raise awareness of the crisis, but also challenge the perception of refugees. We also hope to evolve it into a growing community of like-minded creatives (digital or otherwise) who can contribute their skills to help us build an archive that documents people’s experience of suffering and hardship.
Working on US & THEM this past year has opened my eyes to so much; I’ve seen and heard about the horrors that we as humans are capable of, which every day makes me sick to my stomach. That said it has also reminded me of the immense kindness, courage and love we are capable of, and that, I think, is the most important thing.