By Ashley Lodato
So many people were interested in Luc Reynaud’s recent trip to Jordan that I decided to write Chapter Two. If you read about the first half of Luc’s trip, you’ll know that he volunteered in a school for Syrian refugees in Amman, Jordan. For the second half of the trip, Luc (along with band mate Benjamin Swatez and filmmaker Glen Shackley) was allowed into the giant refugee camp Zaatari, which is quickly evolving into a permanent settlement.
Although Zaatari is only 13 miles away from Syria (“you can see Syria from the hill above the camp,” says Luc), it might as well be 13,000 miles away for the camp’s 80,000 or so Syrian refugees.
“It’s pretty restrictive about who they let in,” says Luc, “even the Jordanian staff who work in the camp have to be out by 3 p.m.” So the three artists — singer/songwriter, painter, filmmaker — spent from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in the settlement each day, at the boys’ camp in the morning and at the girls’ camp in the afternoon, after entering through the three checkpoints that are located within the wire and mesh fence that enclose the camp.
The first day, Luc says, the artists were surprised to see a huge clump of camp residents huddled in one spot along the fence near the checkpoint. “I thought they were praying,” says Luc, “but then our translator told us that they are tapping into the Wi-Fi signal that comes from the headquarters outside the tent.”
For the lucky refugees who have some sort of smart phone, this signal allows them contact with the outside world, and most importantly, with family members still in Syria. Sobering moments came every day, however, with the daily reading over the camp loudspeakers the list of people in Syria who had died in recent days.
Luc started his program with an on-the-spot dance exchange, where the kids showed him some Syrian dance steps with Syrian music playing, followed by Luc sharing some dance moves to Michael Jackson music. Ben (an art therapist who has traveled the world facilitating liberation through creative expression) introduced the kids to the concept that through painting you can create a world of options and a world of choice. He got them to paint what they’d seen and experienced, and then add elements of the things they love and believe in and wanted to become part of their reality.
So, for example, a boy painted a picture of a rebel soldier repeatedly shooting a body that was already dead (yes, this is just one of the horrors these kids have witnessed), and then he painted in two soldiers giving each other flowers.
Luc used this strategy as well, helping the kids find their own melodies and write their own lyrics that allowed them to express the pain and hardship they have known, while also adding a future that is full of possibility. It’s being able to create an inner freedom that is key to these kids believing that they can have a happy life, despite all they have seen and known. Their creativity is their outlet to hope.
Luc and the other artists were able to travel to Jordan through a program called Voices of the Children, which helps youth realize the potential their voice has to create positive change in their local and global community using various forms of art and media as a powerful tool to reach their audience (www.votchildren.org).
Many have asked if Luc found Jordan dangerous. “Absolutely,” he answered. “If you go to Jordan, you’re in danger of eating too much delicious food, making too many friends, and laughing yourself to death as you float on top of the water in the Dead Sea.”