Reporting from: Conflict and post-conflict zones worldwide—Currently: Jerusalem
Local Contact: Roxanne Krystalli
What kind of work are you doing in conflict and post-conflict zones?
I specialize in the post-conflict reintegration of women affected by war-into-peacetime communities. The exact nature of the work depends on the location and on the needs of the population I serve during each assignment. This ranges from developing curricula for workshops and seminars, creating vocational training programs, leading capacity building workshops for community leaders and evaluating whether we are making the impact we hope to make. This work has brought me from Uganda to Sudan, from Egypt to Guatemala, and from Colombia to Jerusalem, where I currently find myself. Past projects benefited ex-combatants, educators, leaders of non-violent resistance movements and youth. Along the journey, I have discovered my passion for storytelling and I am now devising ways to tie it more concretely to my work. I am starting with asking this question: How can we tell the story of women—and of populations at large—in conflict and post-conflict areas in a way that is accurate, respectful, compelling, and does them justice?
What have you seen there that inspires you artistically, creatively or otherwise?
I very much resist the narrative that places that have experienced war or conflict are void of hope. It is my work in these places that fuels my faith in humanity. I am inspired by the resilience, creativity and resourcefulness of the individuals with whom I have worked; it is their attitude that feeds my faith in humanity. The kindness of strangers has also taught me that when you approach experiences with an open heart and a desire to keep your own cynicism and skepticism in check, the colors of life appear more vibrant.
Prior to working in conflict and post-conflict areas, I would never call myself a writer, photographer or storyteller. I thought these were labels reserved for Professionals, with a capital P—for people who earned these titles at university or through another institution that lends their artistic desires some credence. I am slowly learning to let that fallacy go and pushing myself to embrace the stories that are pouring out of me, wanting to be told. I have noticed themes in my writing and photographs that are consistent across all parts of the world: a reflection of something beautiful in a puddle of water and mud, a photograph framed by barbed wire or window bars, colorful ballet flats in unlikely places. I am learning to listen to the stories these photos tell, and to let my words do the telling with confidence.
What can our readers do to support the work you are doing and/or other needs?
Resist cynicism. Silence the voices that tell us we are not creative. Believe in the power and magic of storytelling. Learn about the most effective ways to serve; not all manners of service feel true to everyone, and not all make the impact we think they do. “Slacktivism” is easy and meaningful impact is hard. Be skeptical of narratives that portray individuals in conflict or post-conflict areas in ways that minimize their agency over their lives or their integrity. Take leaps of faith, and reward those around you who do. Acknowledge those who have inspired you, and write to tell them that. Mentor someone. Celebrate the small things with me, either at Stories of Conflict and Love or at Measuring Life in Photographs—my attempt to capture each day of the year with a photograph. And smile when the universe winks at you (I firmly believe it does), and draw strength and inspiration from each wink.
Roxanne Krystalli works with women affected by war and conflict worldwide. She chronicles her journey through gender advocacy, conflict management and storytelling at Stories of Conflict and Love. She can also be found on Twitter at @rkrystalli.
Christine Mason Miller is a writer and mixed-media artist who loves to travel, wander and explore, whether on her own or vicariously through others. Her latest book, Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World, is now available at bookstores everywhere. Visit her at www.christinemasonmiller.com.
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