Two New York filmmakers have traveled to the West Bank to bring their organization MyDigiStory (mydigistory.org) to Palestinian youth, and help give voices to those who are underrepresented. Joanna Cyprys and Joshua Wolff founded MyDigiStory to give children around the world the opportunity to share their personal stories on film. On this trip, Mr. Wolff and Ms. Cyprys will be conducting an eight day workshop with six girls from the Balata refugee camp just outside Nablus.
“We’ve set out to work with the most at-risk, most underrepresented youth around the world- to facilitate the process in getting these youth’s stories to the world…to help increase literacy at the same time,” Mr. Wolff said. “To this end, there are hundreds of thousands of children living in both refugee and and IDP (Internally Displaced Person’s) camps around the world. With little access to proper medical care, sanitation, and any stable education, we felt that working with these children was a logical place to start. There are hundreds of thousands of these youths living in both The West Bank and the Gaza Strip”
Little attention is paid to the education of Palestinian youth in the West Bank. According to UNICEF, “Conditions have rarely been worse for Palestinian children.” There is a lack of funding for education causing the school days to be shortened, classrooms are overcrowded, infrastructure is not maintained, and there are shortages of both schools and teachers. Some parents choose to send their children to private school but with as many as half of families in the West Bank living below the poverty line (46% according to the CIA’s 2007 statistics), many of these children are forced to drop out because their family cannot afford the fees. Those who are attending school are often inattentive and distracted as a result of the economic situation and violence in the area.
“If people knew what these children’s lives were like, they would be more inclined to help make a difference,” according to Ms. Cyprys. She continued, “You can read articles about it, but when you’re hearing first hand from the kids themselves, it gives you a very different perspective.” Mr. Wolff and Ms. Cyprys have other plans for MyDigiStory as well, “For our next project we are looking into doing a program in Haiti for the one year anniversary of the earthquake. We have also had some discussions about Ghana and the U.S. Gulf Coast. Above and beyond we would like to take MyDigiStory to many different areas both nationally and internationally”
Working with Project Hope, an organization seeking to improve the lives of children in the West Bank, and LitWorld, an organization whose focus is improving global literacy rates, MyDigiStory hopes to shed light on the personal stories of Palestinian youth living in the West Bank. Mr. Wolff and Ms. Cyprys will be working with six girls from the Balata refugee camp just outside Nablus, in an eight day MyDigiStory workshop.
Mr. Wolff described the workshop, “The MyDigiStory workshop is a unique blend of the traditional writing process with the opportunity to create a visual story, or digital story, in support of each youth’s personal narrative. We hope to empower these youths in being able to fully control how their story is portrayed to the world.”
The MyDigiStory workshop will consist of two parts. The first, a writing program, will help the students in creating their own narratives based on personal experiences. This will be followed by the filmmaking workshop where the students will learn to use cameras and create videos to illustrate their story. The final result will then be screened for all the children involved as well as their families and community members, followed by a screening in New York City.
Funded by donations through the website Kickstarter and LitWorld, Joanna Cyprys and Joshua Wolff left for the West Bank on the 28th of July, 2010.
Act Now: Visit www.mydigistory.org to learn more.
LitWorld (www.litworld.org) – Is an NGO that works to cultivate literacy leaders worldwide through transformational literacy experiences that build connection, understanding, resilience and strength. LitWorld joins together with teachers, parents, community members, and children to support the development of sustainable literacy practices across the world.
Project Hope (www.projecthope.ps) – Project Hope is a non-profit volunteer organization based in Palestine that support children denied access to basic services that every child needs in order to develop into healthy and well-balanced individual. They provide educational and recreational activities, medical and humanitarian relief and practical training that can empower them with hope and skills for the future.