syrious mission, war through the eyes of a child

Dutch photographers Laura Andalou and Odette Denijs travelled to Jordan to document the child refugees of the Syrian Civil War and try to give them their own voices by teaching them to document their own lives.

by Channa Brunt
05 December 2014, 11:30am

Photography Laura Andalou

In June and September this year photographers Laura Andalou and Odette Denijs packed their bags full of disposable cameras and together with the charity Syrious Mission flew off to Jordan, where they provided the children who had fled from the Syrian Civil War to the refugee camps there an outlet through photography. A selection of the images shot by the children, along with pictures that Laura and Odette took themselves, will be exhibited at Amsterdam's Volkshotel this weekend.

What is Syrious Mission?
Laura: Syrious Mission is a non-profit organisation that focuses on children and tries to give them a sort of therapy through music and other creative expressions. Whilst there is a lot of care in refugee camps, most of the refugees don't live in camps but in the cities around it. That is where Syrious Mission provides its care. It is important that besides the refugees, we help the children of the local population too, which of course also face war and trauma.

What was it like working with the children?
Laura: It is very special because there is this huge language barrier. We did have a translator with us, but we actually only needed him in the beginning - we would start communicating in other ways. When I think of how we walked through the village, taking those pictures, I never even used that interpreter. We communicated through gestures and expressions.

How can a project like this help the children?
Odette: It's an outlet. It is especially important that the people feel that they are not forgotten - many people indicated that they indeed felt that way. If you take on those children for a week, teaching them, playing with them, you also notice how grateful the parents are - they thank you for letting their children be children again. It is also very important for the next generation there. It is a generation of war, even for the children of Jordan. Jordan is a small country and the population there largely consists of refugees -from Palestine, Iraq and now Syria. It's important that you give them an outlet and let them communicate.

What was your personal goal?
Odette: Just to give the children there a good time and offer them a way to tell their own story. I wanted them to see that they matter and that they are individuals - it goes beyond assistance in terms of food and housing to give them the feeling that they are someone again, and let them know that someone is listening to them.
Laura: For me it actually goes way back. I've always wanted to do this kind of work - I just never knew in what form it could take. Suddenly it was within reach with Syrious Mission. This dream was suddenly so close. Not that my dream has something to do with war and other people's grief, but to help people.

The official opening of the exhibition curated by Vanya Pieters in the Volkshotel is Friday, December 5th from 5:00 pm to 22:00 pm.


Text Channa Brunt
Images Laura Andalou and Odette Denijs

syrian civil war
Laura Andalou
odette denijs
syrious mission