Upon stepping back out into the sun from the inside of the temporary housing of the camp, I made my way along the short path towards the FFS (Female Friendly Space) for the workshop and empowerment session Marissa was leading for the children and youth.
The theme ~ Dreams.
The energy of this space felt a world away from the inside of the camp’s temporary housing I had been in only moments before. Stepping into the FFS tent, I was surrounded with smiles, laughter and an air of lightheartedness.
The children engaged as Marissa led them through animated conversation about dreams, the ability to reach for them even through the most challenging of circumstance, and the importance of following them relentlessly. To attend school. To move forward. To hold onto hope for a bright future amidst the losses they have experienced.
I watched as children began to share their dreams aloud ~ Dreams of being a teacher. A dancer. Dreams of having an abundance of food to eat.
The joy within the tent became palpable as the children received gifts of notebooks, pencils and immersed themselves in a state of togetherness and joy in the present moment.
I thought to myself ~ These women and children have lost their homes. Some have undoubtedly lost members of family and friends.
These children are living in a displacement camp. These children are, in this moment, smiling, energetic, hopeful.
The women ~ mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters ~ surrounded the FFS and looked on. I observed them in awe.
Upon leaving the camp later on alongside Aura Freedom and Apeiron, I was approached by a woman, placing her hand on my arm and urging me to photograph her.
She looked directly into my eyes not as someone who had lost her home, not as someone staying in a displacement camp or as a victim, but as a pillar of strength.
I saw in her eyes someone defined not by tragedy or circumstance, but by the unwavering will to forge ahead. A testament to the fortitude not only of this woman, but in my mind, to all women. We held each other's gaze for what felt like a long time. I put my hand to my heart, thanking her for the photograph, and made my way slowly out of the camp that she has likely called home for the past five months.
To learn more about Aura Freedom International, their programs and Female Friendly Space initiative, you may visit www.aurafreedom.org.