Two Guys Are Making The World A More Knowledgeable Place One Month At A Time

Documentary filmmakers Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple spent a month living on the Za'taari refugee camp in Jordan. Zach and Chris share a little how their life and neighbors were (and still is right now for about 140,000 Syrians) in photographs below.

January 24, 2014

Za'atari refugee camp entrance


"In an effort to better understand refugee life, we spent one month this winter living alongside displaced families in the Za’atari refugee camp. As the first filmmakers ever allowed by the United Nations to be given a tent and registered inside a refugee camp, we were able to get a never before seen look into the world’s most pressing crisis.

Our experience uncovered overwhelming trauma but also the untapped potential our uprooted neighbors posses. With the right programs we can support healing, ease the burden on host countries and even empower the disenfranchised by unleashing people’s creativity."

Registration for camp through UNHCR (The United Nations Refugee Agency) and the Jordanian government

"...[W]e are provided with a UNHCR tent, 4 mattress pads, 8 blankets, a bucket, an aluminum pot, a gas heater (but no gas), a hygiene kit (soap, toothbrushes, detergent), a bread voucher, ration card, ID card, and a welcome meal (complete with Fig Newtons!). They also offer additional clothes and a second meal to those who choose. The supplies strike us as well-thought-out and, thanks to the generosity of donors, much better than what NGOs could provide when the camp first opened."

February 3, 2014

"Inside [Um Ali's] caravan, one wall is completely covered by Arabic writing. Even without knowing what it says, it’s striking to look at. We ask her about the wall and Um Ali tells us that when she first came to Za’atari she knew no one and was deeply depressed. She had lost a son, her home and everything she once knew and loved back in Syria ... she began to write everything she remembered on the wall.

At the market one day [Um Ali] walked through the gates of the women’s center ... a women’s group was taking place where they were sharing stories very similar to hers. She came back the next day and shared her own story."

"Um Ali thrived at the women’s center and was eventually hired to teach women the countless arts and crafts she had mastered back in Syria. This was the first job she had ever held and she became an important provider for her family. We ask if she likes to work, and she proudly tells us, 'In Syria, working wasn’t necessary so it never crossed my mind that I would enjoy it.'"

February 6, 2014

Ziyad is an artist who built, among other things, a fountain, by repurposing aid items.

"He built a bedroom for his kids, fashioned a bread oven, planted a garden, pieced together a storefront and is in the process of adding a private bathroom and cement patio to his caravan." (above)

February 13, 2014

Ra’ouf, a 10-year-old neighbor, and Zach and Chris make tea.

"Children under the age of 18 make up over 50% of the 95,000 current residents in Za’atari refugee camp. This statistic is very apparent; kids are everywhere in Za’atari. They freely roam in small packs doing what all young kids do when they get together. Only 20,000 of the children in Za’atari are enrolled in school and only about 11,000 consistently attend classes.

We find out, however, that Ra’ouf does regularly go to what he calls 'the nursery,' his name for one of Save the Children’s 'Child-Friendly Spaces.' Here Ra’ouf can play soccer, draw, and do a number of other activities with other kids ages 5 to 17. There are two of these spaces in District 5 alone so it isn’t as crowded as the schools and Ra’ouf says it is a fun place to go."

10-year-old Ra’ouf

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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via Pexels

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There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

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Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

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