Interviews Oral Histories

The Children of Syria – A Lost Generation

It would be difficult to pick up a newspaper or to listen to a news broadcast without seeing or hearing about the situation in Syria. The plight of Syrian refugees are almost a daily feature. While it is easy to become numb to the escalating statistics of the Syrian War from the distance and comfort of our own homes, a middle school student in the San Juan Unified School District has chosen to bring to light the impact of war on children. Thanks to the support of his teacher, Jeff Darrow, Hasan Alsamman stepped up to the challenge of producing a documentary to enter into the SEVAs, a regional student video contest sponsored by the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC).

Elk Grove Unified’s Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project recognizes the sacrifices and contributions of our immigrant and refugee populations. It is our privilege to feature an interview with Hasan and to showcase his powerful documentary in our On Coming to America page.

We asked Hasan several questions to help us and our EGUSD teachers and students to understand and appreciate what inspired Hasan to create the documentary.

Question: Can you tell us what led you to create a documentary on the Syrian refugee situation? What made you aware of their story?

Ever since the start of the Syrian Revolution, my family and I have been following the situation in Syria. The three boys I interviewed, Khaled, Yusuf, and Muhammad, and their family, arrived in Sacramento about a year and a half ago. Their family, along with a few others, were one of the first families to arrive in Sacramento. At their arrival, my family and other families around the community felt obligated to help them. As we welcomed them into the community and helped them stand steadily on their feet, I got to know these families. I became close with Khaled, Yusuf, and Muhammad. As they became close to me, they began to open up to me; and as I heard their story of devastation and sadness, I realized the story of these children must be told in some way. The experiences the children of Syria suffer through are terrible and horrendous. When my teacher introduced us to the SEVAs I knew exactly what I wanted my SEVA to be about.

Question: Your interview is so powerful. We know it will help others to understand the plight of Syrian refugees. In doing this video project, what will you most remember about the interview?

I remember when we were taking a break and I was chatting with them, a plane flew by. Immediately, Yusuf, the second youngest, looked up at the sky through the window. I could see a tinge of fear in his eyes; he seemed to be holding his breath, as if  he were waiting for something to happen. I recognized he knew that he was safe, but he kept his eyes wide open and his breath held until the intimidating sound of the plane had disappeared. He had to make sure his family was going to be safe, because in Syria if you heard the sound of a plane overhead you prayed for your life. I will never forget the look in his eyes, as he will never forget the sound of the planes dropping bombs. 

Question: Do you have any words of encouragement to other students to help get them involved with documenting the stories of local immigrants and refugees?

To anyone looking to interview refugees, I say, go right ahead. What you will hear from any refugee will change you. First-hand experiences and stories of pain and heartbreak make you so much more grateful and appreciative. Refugees have a certain type of wisdom that cannot be taught. They have been through things that barely anyone ever goes through. They have the wisdom of hundreds of years, and once they open up to you and share with you, you become so much more open minded. It inspires you to hear every refugee’s story, and spread awareness about them. And maybe, with this inspiration, you could be the one to end all this heartbreak and tragedy in our world today. 

The Children of Syria – A Lost Generation –  A documentary by Hasan Alsamman
Refugee Story – Syria

Hasan’s words of wisdom encouraging other students to reach out and listen to the stories of refugees in their own community resonates strongly with us. He is right – learning a refugee’s story will forever change you. With every story, we gain a better understanding of history and how historical events play out in our communities, even if they’ve never been included in a textbook. A very important lesson we have also learned is that, too often, we do not really know who is sitting in front of us in our classrooms, parent conferences or staff rooms.

A special thank you to Hasan for his willingness to share his documentary. His insights to the Syrian refugee situation provide a valuable first-hand account of a very current and global event.

Gail and Kathleen

tor talks

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