Arsenal's photo project marks 10 years of Syrian war

The foundation of Arsenal Football Club has worked with Save the Children to create a powerful photography project marking 10 years since the war in Syria began.

The project is part of the ‘Coaching for Life’ programme which since 2018 has been supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of children affected by war and conflict through bespoke football sessions at Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

Children at the camp were given instax cameras so they could tell their own story and, in a short film released this week, the images are reviewed by Arsenal footballer Hector Bellerin and photographer Pixie Levinson.

They show what life has been like for children in the camp during lockdown, and how Save the Children and the Arsenal Foundation have been working to support their mental health and wellbeing. They also demonstrate the resilience and creativity of the young refugees.

The footballer commented: “Sometimes as humans it’s really hard to communicate the feelings we have inside and it’s easier to express them in a creative way.

“Photography was something that took me away when I couldn’t play football in the first few months of lockdown and I think it helps us open up and connect with people in a different way. It’s inspiring to have these young people as part of the Arsenal family and to read their stories. I am so proud that we can continue to support them.”

Pixie added: “Photography has always given me an outlet to express myself – in good times and bad. Photos capture a moment, but what the children in Za’atari have managed to capture goes much deeper. Their photos tell so many stories - losing loved ones, leaving their beloved homes, treacherous journeys and years of living in a refugee camp.

“The strength and power these children have exuded through the camera lens is awe-inspiring. It’s been an honour to work on this photography project and give them the chance to share their stories with the world.”

Za’atari is one of the world’s largest refugee camps and hosts nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees, while more than half of its population are children.

The Coaching for Life project between Arsenal and Save the Children has continued throughout the pandemic, with modules delivered remotely through virtual groups. The sessions address issues such as managing emotions, learning how to communicate, decision making, self-esteem and conflict management. 

The project also helps both girls and boys develop skills as well as being able to voice their opinions, take action on issues that affect them, and learn about equality.

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Pic credit: Arsenal Foundation, Save the Children.