Kachin Children Tell Stories of War

The Irrawaddy ...

Amid continuing clashes between armed rebel groups and the national military, children in Kachin State are now telling their side of the story through photography.

At the Mina camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) about eight miles outside the state capital of Myitkyina, dozens of children took part in a project last month to document the lives of their families and friends, among more than 900 Kachin villagers who fled to the camp in June last year when fighting broke out in their communities.

Organized by Insight Out!, an international group of media professionals and artists that helps children in conflict areas recover through the arts, the photography project brought together 36 Kachin children between the ages of 9 and 17, including those who had lost a family member to the long-running conflict in Burma’s northernmost state.

Sharing a camera, the children took photographs of daily life in the camp as part of a weekend workshop. Each child received a journal in which to write stories and paste their photos, including a selection published here along with portraits of the young photographers.

Jeanne Hallacy, a documentary filmmaker and curator at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, was involved in the project. She said the children’s stories expressed uncertainty about their present conditions and hopes of returning home in the near future.

Another 70 children between the ages of 5 and 7 also participated in a drawing workshop as part of the program, which was organized in collaboration with YMCA Myitkyina and taught by volunteers.

InSight Out! was founded in 2004 to aid in recovery efforts for children in Southeast Asia after the Asian tsunami disaster.

Since then, the group has held workshops for more than 800 children in Thailand and Indonesia, often partnering with local schools and community-based organizations. It has also worked in the United States with marginalized youth in New York and students from migrant families in San Francisco.

The group publishes children’s photography stories in regional and global media and also curates photography exhibitions.

The photography and storytelling project last month in Kachin State was the first Insight Out! workshop in Burma, though the group aims to expand its work in the country and is seeking contributions.