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Middle East/North Africa

Shatila, Lebanon: "I've always wanted to be a journalist"

22-year-old Rayan Sukkar is a Palestinian refugee who was born in the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon. Here, she writes about why she's excited to be part of a DW Akademie citizen journalism project.

Libanon Flüchtlingslager Schatila Bürgerjournalistin (DW/Nasir Al-Jezairi)

Young citizen journalist Rayan Sukkar lives in the Shatila refugee camp and contributes to a new online platform

The Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon was originally set up in 1949 for 3,000 Palestinian refugees. Tens of thousands now live there together with an increasing number of Syrians and Palestinians fleeing the war in Syria.

Campji is a slang expression that young Palestinians use to refer to the camp's residents. It's a combination of the English word "camp" and the Arabic suffix "ji". Basically, all of us here are campjis.

Campji is also the name of our new online platform where residents can access the videos we produce. Young citizen reporters like myself go out on the street and do interviews, vox pops and reports. Our goal is to tell people's stories and address issues that are important to all of us living in the camp.

Everyone faces daily challenges here. The infrastructure's falling apart, there's not enough electricity or clean water and security is a problem. So is drug consumption. There's also the problem of unemployment and the fact that if you live in the camp, you aren't officially allowed to work in Lebanon.

Media reports about Shatila are often negative and reflect stereotypes. Campji, on the other hand, is also about offering people a sense of hope.

Libanon Flüchtlingslager Schatila Bürgerjournalistin Rayan Sukkar (DW/Nasir Al-Jezairi )

Palestinan refugee Rayan Sukkar (left) and a colleague shoot a video with support from trainer Peter Brückner

This DW Akademie project involves trainers who help us develop storytelling formats and the skills needed for video journalism. We're learning the entire process, from developing an idea to actually producing the story.

I originally heard earned about the project from a friend of mine. She'd seen a roadside poster about it and thought it might interest me. I jumped at the idea.

You see, I've always wanted to be a journalist. I'm currently studying communications in the Lebanese capital, Beirut and working as a video reporter is a great addition to what I am learning there. This way, as a Palestinian in Lebanon, I can make my voice heard.

Libanon Flüchtlingscamp Schatila Video-Produktion (DW/Nasir Al-Jezairi)

Video production for Campiji - a new online platform offering reports for refugees at the Shatila camp in Lebanon

Humor is extremely important for citizen journalists. While we want to portray life in Shatila as it really is, our main goal with the platform is to focus on positive aspects. Humor helps us tackle sensitive issues and it gives people a chance to laugh about life, even though it's not always easy.

We also have an investigative format and are researching camp issues such as mismanagement. We have to be careful, though, because the camp is managed by various Palestinian factions with differing political leanings and they don't appreciate critical reporting.

So it's a balancing act to address the problems without pointing fingers. That was difficult at the beginning because we weren't always allowed to film.

I'm very proud of the reports we've been producing. We've done pieces on people with unusual skills and I've produced reports on various cooking courses as well as a portrait about a comedian. I'm currently working on a piece about the decline in the quality of school education.

I really believe that with Campji, things in Shatila will start to change. I think people will begin to see some of the positive aspects about life here and together start discussing the problems they're facing.

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