I Wish I Were a Bird

Palestinian refugee children in Lebanon record their lives and express their hopes

In 1998, 30 children (ages 10-12) from three Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut (Chatila, Bourj El-Barajneh, Mar Elias) started a four-year active learning and creative expression journey.

The time of starting the journey with this group of children coincided with the 50th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a date remembered by five million Palestinian refugees as marking fifty years of the “NAKBA”, the uprooting and violations of their human, national and civil rights.

This project aimed at enabling children to reflect about their lives, and express their concerns and hopes; from learning to work as photo-journalists to expressing themselves in art to learning filmmaking and writing scripts to acting in three films (two of which received awards), to producing a photo-voice bi-lingual (Arabic/ English) book on their four-year learning and creative journey. The Book later was translated and printed in Spanish, German and Italian.

This journey continued to inspire children around the world from Dalet children in Mumbai who were inspired to do their own photo- voice project, and send their photos to be exhibited in Lebanon, to Sahrawi refugee children in the refugee camps in Tandouf to Italian children living in a working-class neighborhood in Napoli.

The project also empowered school girls in Taiz, Yemen in becoming photo-journalist and befriended the children in the slum Akhdam (untouchables), and made a photo- voice project about their lives and predicament.

The children in the “I wish I were a bird project” ended their four-year journey by helping to organize a children’s festival that opened with a photo-voice exhibition of their project, the films, and others made by young people from Palestine.