Refugees Tell Their Stories Through BYU Photovoice Project
Students at Brigham Young University invited IRC clients to participate in a project to represent their lives through photographs. This method, called photovoice, is a an informative and unique way to look at an issue from the individual’s perspective where individuals are given cameras and are asked to take pictures that represent different aspects of their lives.
For this project, the participants were specifically asked to take pictures of things in their life that are different from other Americans focusing on employment opportunities as refugees. Several IRC clients were invited to take a disposable camera for a week, take pictures that represented their lives, and then meet with the students to discuss the significance of the pictures taken.
Participants took pictures that represented some of the difficulties with finding employment in the U.S., including language barriers, adjusting to life in an urban environment, and limited job opportunities. However, refugees also expressed optimism that through education, hard work, and opportunities they will succeed in their new life. Sally, an Iraqi refugee, took a picture of a chair and said that it represented her desire to work at a desk as a journalist: “I want to be tired until I get that chair. I want to work hard. I want to be worthy of that position, of that chair.”
This project gave the students and IRC staff a chance to see life from the refugees’ perspective. The photographs and captions will be displayed on a poster to be presented at the annual American Public Health Association Conference later this year.
The information and insights from this project can also serve as a valuable advocacy piece for working with community stakeholders in the future. Siddiq, a Sudanese refugee, was photographed holding an IRC banner and said that the picture “represents pride in IRC. A lot of people are in pain, like me and they are rescuing me and these people.”