Today’s special feature is a Q&A with a team of individuals whose goal is to reach out and be the voice of the modern culture of Lebanon and its people, one story at a time.
Created by Camille Abboud and Naji Safiti, the project is now lead by an incredible team of dedicated people.
Please introduce yourself and explain what your project actually is and what it stands for.
We launched [Lebanon: One Story at a Time] on the 29th of November 2015. The page was inspired by Humans of New York, a photography project created and launched by Brandon Stanton. Camille first stumbled upon the idea during the summer; to create a page that create a sense of unity and belonging to the world among the people of Lebanon by sharing their stories. Although Camille has never had the courage to kick start a project like this in Lebanon, her fear that it wouldn’t work dissipated after meeting Naji. Once Camille made the proposition to Naji, they agreed on working together and bringing about an audience before his scheduled leave to Houston in the beginning of the 2016.
We hope that maybe one day, we can shed some light on Lebanon and paint it in its true colors. We have decided to evade the political, the religious issues, the civil strife and revolutions and riots; all these aspects that have limited the Western perception of a country that has now become embedded in stereotype. Instead, we sought its people, the individuals who make up the whole, in all their diversity, their beauty, their complexity.
We took to our streets and spoke to our neighbors, our teachers, our families and friends, our grocers and builders, the young, the old, the tired and the tried.
Hopefuls and dreamers alike have a story to share, whether it be personal or general, brief or long, whether as a revelation catered to provide healthy advice to others or as a simple way to let off some steam. It is our intimate journey, an experience we cherish deeply, to connect with the people of Lebanon on a personal level, on a level that the global front hardly ever sees. We are proud to do so, and we hope this is something that will reach ears. At the end of the day, every one has something, a voice, something that they have to offer, to contribute to the world. And this translates into a capacity to change the world for the better. We are here for this reason, as a part of the people: we listen. We are a part of this, as those who have committed to lending an ear, to bringing the voices of this country together into one harmonious song. Old, young, successful or still trying: we listen.
What are your goals and aspirations for the project?
Awareness and Hope. That’s the message. In today’s world, the social media factor is so prominent. Anything you need, you can find online. We shed light on people’s achievements, whether they are physical or not. We give the Lebanese society praise to their accomplishments by letting the world know that they exist. These people don’t get rewarded for it. They are rewarding us instead with their ideas, thoughts, hopes and an awareness, one which make us question ourselves – what is so special about this project? It is interactive, it is rewarding in different ways, it is all engaging.
How do you plan on reaching people around the world? Has the feedback been positive so far?
We are planning to have a different photographer and representative in each country to take portraits. For now, we are still looking for some people to help us achieve this project. We only have Lebanon, Dubai and Houston cover for now.
How do you manage the project along with your personal life?
Before Naji moved to Houston, we were both involved on the ground; in taking portraits of people around Lebanon. Adding to the fieldwork, we decided to reach out to friends and family where we managed to get even more stories. Once we started breaching more territory, we had a clearer vision on how to ask the questions and how to get people to talk. Handling the page was not quite as easy as we thought, although with time (as we got more and more known), it became easier and we started enjoying the whole process: going up to people, and talking to them became less threatening and more exciting.
For now, Camille is doing the fieldwork and portrait shooting. Alongside Naji, we are managing the page and building on connections and contacts. We note that these stories are said by the people themselves, and sometimes it is required that we rewrite a story either because they are in Arabic or are awkwardly structured. This is where we like to thank Natasha Khalife and Ziad Saliba for the continuous support in revising and providing proper semantic help whenever stories need it. It is a challenging task to manage a page. However we are determined on keeping our focus because in the long run, we hope to effect real positive change.
However, it is very hard to balance work, our personal life and the project altogether. But we are doing our best to keep it going!
How has Lebanon: One Story at a Time impacted your life and your perspective on people in general?
We’ve learned a lot about the people who surround us in our daily life. It taught us to listen to one another, to see things in different perspectives. Everyone has been through different events and experiences in life, and wants to be heard or share something he or she learned about it. We now understand what “don’t judge a book by its cover” means.
Is this a project you hope to continue later on in life?
We don’t think we can ever run out of interesting stories; everyone has something original, and awe-inspiring to share, simply because there is no one exactly like them who have lived with their unique circumstances.What makes an individual stand out is simply that they are here. They exist in their unique way, with a unique perception and unique circumstances. It doesn’t change that they might not know it. When you talk to someone, we believe that there will always be a subject that draws your attention. We doubt we will ever stop. Talking to people and hearing their words, their unique message is such a beautiful adventure, a thrill. Luckily – given such short notice – we are growing fast. We haven’t reached the best part yet – it is still a long road ahead. With Anis’ story in mind, we recall this particular quote: “I was so content that I didn’t stop at the first stage. Determination and love for what I am doing helped get to where I am at this point.” It is a long term project, it is like our baby: we need to continue feeding it and raising it so we can be so incredibly proud of it someday.
You can check out Lebanon: One Story at a Time’s page on Facebook: