Helping refugees preserve links to their homelands


A lecturer and a student from The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) are helping Syrian and Palestinian refugees in camps in Lebanon record their cultures and traditions in photographs and videos.

A man holding a camera-phone on a tripod films two smiling girls in pink and purple clothes in a Lebanese street.

The Lebanon Heritage Project, run by Swansea City Opera and funded by a £90,000 British Council Cultural Heritage Protection grant, aims to help refugees preserve their links to their homelands. As part of the project, Tim Stokes, ATiC Innovation Fellow at UWTSD, has been working with NGO organisations within the camps to provide training and guidance on filmmaking, photography and community engagement.

Also involved are two charities – SHIELD, which works with refugees in the south of Lebanon, and Dreams of a Refugee, an NGO that works with refugees in Shatila camp.

"Working with the groups has been a brilliant experience, not only creating a dialogue for the work on this project but also seeing the other amazing projects the charity organisations (Dreams of a Refugee and SHEILD) are operating - such as schools and capacity building for the people,” says Tim.

"Even when I’m at home in Wales, I receive frequent updates of the video records they have been collecting and am able to see and understand through their journalism the stories and traditions of the past that are remembered, reencountered and still upheld today. It’s fascinating and a privilege to feel past of this process of sharing.”

A documentary photography student from UWTSD, Hamza Sbeitan, has also joined the project and is translating all the video and audio records from Arabic into English. These records will be archived in an online database, created and structured by the American University of Beirut, which will connect the heritage of those living in the camps to a wider audience around the world.

“The most interesting part in seeing these records of heritage and culture is that they are fused with present day, showing glimpses of the people, communities and hint at what daily life is like within the camps,” says Tim.

Memories of music, dancing, festivals, recipes, singing and crafts including embroidery, costumes, and falconry are all being recorded as part of the project.

Four men watch a laptop screen, on which a man is holding a musical instrument.

“This project comes at a very important stage, especially in the past years of asylum, where the project seeks to document the heritage that may have ended or is not important for young generations,” says Tarek Othman, Trustee, Dreams of a Refugee.

Tim adds that the project has been enriching for all involved.

“For me personally, it really is more of a celebration of the people and their communities within the camps, their sense of identity and also belonging,” he says. “These stories, interviews and artefacts serve as a current archive that will be preserved by this project for the future. But in making these records they also celebrate the here and now.”

Further Information

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

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Corporate Communications and PR

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