Focusing on Harmony and Understanding
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Focusing on Harmony and Understanding

By The Irrawaddy FEBRUARY, 2008 - VOLUME 16 NO.2


A program offering photography courses to children from marginalized Burmese and Thai ethnic communities in Thailand is producing some promising talent.

Apart from teaching useful skills, the program aims to foster friendship between children and build bridges of peace and understanding, according to Jeanne Hallacy, director of Thailand-based InSIGHT Out, the organization that began the program three years ago.

InSIGHT Out started the project following the December 2004 tsunami as a way of helping affected children come to terms with the horror of the disaster. Young participants in the photo workshops were encouraged to portray subjects related to the tsunami and its aftermath.

Those first workshops healed mental scars—and they also fired young ambitions. “My dream is to become a professional photographer when I grow up,” said 13-year-old Soe Zaw Zaw, a member of the current class.

Chit Su Hlaing, a 14-year-old Burmese migrant girl, said: “It was my dream to attend the photo workshop because I believe that all the education and knowledge I acquire will be useful in my life.”

More than 140 children have so far completed the workshops and displayed their work in exhibitions in Thailand’s coastal Phang Nga and Phuket provinces.

Sharing the classrooms are children from Burmese migrant families, Thai “sea gypsies” and Muslim and Buddhist communities.

They work together in a harmony that is exemplary in Thailand’s diverse social structure, says Jeanne Hallacy.

Left: Children with examples of their works; Right: Children listen with rapt attention

“Our project is to promote their vision—how they see things—by giving them the opportunities to express themselves through photography. The photography is just the aftermath of a relationship,” she said.

“We feel that the best way to start the foundation of understanding is respect. Respect starts with themselves, and then they will start to see and respect other cultures, religions and languages. They will then see themselves as one community.”

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