As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been speaking with a lot of Syrian refugees, and the process is becoming more familiar and fine-tuned with each day. I meet a family, I tell them about the school I want to open in their town, and I explain that in order to raise money for the school I am shooting a documentary about their situation. Most people I have encountered are at least somewhat receptive, some are not. All are initially afraid and hesitant to be filmed. They fear reprisal from the Syrian government, even though I don’t ask them about their views of the government or whether they are pro-regime or pro-revolution. I have witnessed the tight grasp the regime still holds on its citizens, even when these citizens find themselves in small, out-of-the-way places in a different country. And it saddens me to think that in addition to already struggling to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads, these people are also dealing with this constant fear that their government might send soldiers to kill them for betraying the regime. Needless to say, I often see fright and apprehension in their eyes when I mention my desire to film them.
However, after talking through their concerns, their eyes start to change as they digest what I’ve just told them. I am going to open a school in their town. Their children, many of whom haven’t attended a single class for the past two years, will have a place again to go to learn. I watch as the concern melts away, and the flame of fear in their eyes is extinguished, replaced by a much brighter flame, one of hope. I see this bright new flame and it instantly triggers two opposing feelings within me, first a fleeting joy, because I’ve made them happy, but then a lingering fear. I’m afraid because the gravity of what I have told these people sets in, and at some point I realize that I am the originator of this new hope. I brought it into existence, and because I did so, I will also be responsible for its destruction if I fail to follow through on my promise to open a school for these children. This thought weighs on me constantly.
Will I be able to find enough money to open my planned school? I don’t know. What I am certain of, however, is that this flame of hope is a powerful thing. Even now, as I sit and look into the eyes of these children, I realize that their hope ultimately and completely consumes my fears.