It was an experience that literally changed my life. It was on my first trip to the island of Levos. Late one night as we were driving along a deserted beach, we saw flashlights shinning into the darkness over the ocean. We immediately knew what it meant. Moments late as we were wading into the waters to assist a group of refugees off a crowded boat, a woman handed me her small child. This was the moment that the reality of this human crisis really hit home for me. Like many of us, I had read a lot about the refugee crisis, but seeing it up close and personal made me feel something that is almost impossible to describe.
Since that night last November, I have returned to Lesvos several times and have interviewed refugees not only throughout Greece, but also in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. It was on my first trip to Turkey that I met Rena Effendi for the first time. She was introduced to me by my friend and partner in this initiative, Amed Khan .We have met on subsequent trips and stay in touch on a regular basis. We share information and have always wanted to share our experience with the public at large. This was the reason we embarked on this exhibition.
Rena's photographs capture not only the tragedy of this epic crisis ,but more importantly, they capture the resilience of the human spirit. In her own words, she is not looking to evoke pity and compassion only, but rather, respect and admiration for these people that have endured so much. And she does it beautifully.
I have been telling the story of my experience to many people over the past months and I always try to describe how seeing it firsthand made it impossible to not try and do something to alleviate all of the suffering that is taking place. I find that words alone don't do it justice. One must see it ,to truly get it. I believe Rena's photos go a long way in sharing what we experienced and the next best thing to being there. I hope this exhibition will inspire you to find ways to engage and support all humanitarian efforts that help the millions of people affected by this crisis.
Please learn more and get involved. This crisis needs all of us to act in some way. And always remember , what is happening to these people can happen to any of us.
I would like to thank Gary Nader for helping us making this possible.