Jeff’s Artists Involved for Nations United (AINU) report from Lebanon.

Jeff’s Artists Involved for Nations United (AINU) report from Lebanon.

October 16th, 2010
I have been living alone in Beirut, Lebanon for approximately one month since the Nations United team left home to Canada. I requested to stay behind after feeling a deep urge that there is a lot of unfinished business here regarding the Nations United campaign. It turns out my instincts were correct. In this short time, I have become involved in the implementation of various artistic projects in my local community here in southern Beirut.
My two main focuses are currently in coordination with the IJMAA (or IJMA3 to be correct) and with the ‘Girls! Girls! Club’ (Binat! Binat!) that is operated by the local humanitarian organization palWHO. IJMAA is a community centre near the Bourj Al Barajne refugee camp that provides members of the neighbourhood with free computer and multimedia training programs. These classes are open to students of all faiths, ages, abilities and backgrounds. For instance, on October 16th, I conducted a photography lecture to 28 students from a vast diversity of nationalities; from Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian to Philippine and Sudanese. All classes at IJMAA encourage group projects, and emphasize the themes of unity that are also so prevalent within the Nations United campaign.


When I first arrived at IJMAA, the curriculum offered to the students was structured solely around computer maintenance and Photoshop training. I spoke with the principal teacher, Ibrahim, and we both agreed there needed to be more programming for the students to work towards – but like at most places in Lebanon, the resources at hand were limited. After several days of planning and research I sent a proposal to Nations United requesting funds to purchase several high quality digital cameras and three user friendly digital video recorders. My request was approved the very same day!
After securing the equipment, I met with the project manager at IJMA3, and with help from Ibrahim, we devised an expanded curriculum for the students. The new curriculum adds a photography unit to precede the Photoshop training, and a video training and editing course to follow.
After three weekends teaching alongside the passionate and intelligent Ibrahim, I have noticed an extreme growth in class participation. It has more than doubled in size since my first class! Unfortunately, this is actually too many students to accommodate, considering the size of the workspace and shortage of computers and other equipment. For this reason, a request has recently been made to divide the class into two separate groups to be taught during two separate time slots. Ibrahim and I are holding our breath eagerly waiting for the response which we hope to receive early next week.
Every Thursday I offer volunteer instruction to a girls-only group called ‘Binat! Binat!’ This group is located within the Bourj Al-Barajne refugee camp in southern Beirut. My goal is to provide the girls with technical skills relating to film and television while also helping them build confidence and self-esteem. Our first unit of the curriculum concerns interview techniques. The participants will learn the three pivotal positions necessary to conduct a basic interview: the role of the interviewer, the guest, and the camera operator.


The participants ages range from 9-14 and they are, so far, very intrigued by the idea of being introduced to a professional trade involving technology. I am also teaching the girls basic photography skills, so that they can get used to the ideas of project planning, framing a photo, and composing meaningful photographs.
I look forward to each lesson that I have the privilege to teach, and I am surprised by how much I am learning about film, television, culture, and Lebanese society. I can honestly say that there is nowhere else I would rather be, and nothing else I would rather be doing. It has truly been an honour. Mohandas Gandhi once said, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. I could not agree more.
Jeff Barry

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