First Person

You won’t believe a high school student made this video

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How would a high school student produce a meaningful video about the conflict in Syria? That’s the question I was asking myself a few months ago, when I heard that three Boston-area students were coming by our Oxfam America office to interview staffers. Oxfam is responding to this complex and ever-growing crisis, which has left over seven million people–more than the entire population of Massachusetts–in urgent need of assistance.

As an independent filmmaker myself, I assumed the students would come with a teacher or some mentor who suggested the topic and was guiding them along in the process. After all, I was into video back in high school too, except my videos featured my friends and I diving around with toy guns or improvising comedy routines, creating what only we could describe as “amazing short films.”

But in fact, this was nothing like my own high school foray in filmmaking. The three students came by themselves with a clear vision and the tools to capture it. The filmmaker, Clint Yoo, is a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and leads a group there called Andover Global Society.

Yoo, a resident of South Korea, wanted to create a film that would inspire action on an important and timely global crisis. As he learned about the humanitarian situation in Syria, it became clear there was an underreported side of the crisis that he had to share with the world. Yoo didn’t want to focus on the conflict or the complicated politics around it, but rather on the people who, fearing their safety and wanting nothing to do with the violent conflict, have been forced to flee their homes. With the help of fellow students Hector Cho and Jack McGovern, he began researching the crisis and developed this video.

Even with their impressive assertiveness, I wasn’t sure what to expect of this ambitious video until last week, when I pressed play on the edited piece that Yoo sent us and almost dropped my mug a la The Usual Suspects.

In response to a conflict as violent, as complex, as intractable as the crisis in Syria today, what difference can any one of us–thousands of miles away–really make? Even as someone who communicates every day about global poverty issues, there are times when I still ask that question. This time, the answer came from a high school student very close to home.

There is profound power in communication. It is our job to shine light where there is often little illumination. Awareness can clear a path towards understanding and solidarity. It is in solidarity that we stand with the people of Syria. And it is that solidarity that directs us to take action.

So watch the video, share it, and let us know what you think.

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