When UNICEF’s photographers set out to capture the light of hope, first they had to look in the darkness.
Hope is a hard thing to show in a photograph. It’s not tangible, but we can feel hope in our hearts; it’s invisible, yet we can see it in someone’s eyes or hear it in their laugh.
Hope is a light that guides us through the darkness and the voice that sings to us in the silence. Humans need hope to carry on because, without hope, life would be too damn hard.
“Finding Hope,” the new photo series by UNICEF’s photographers is a stunning exposé about what hope looks like in the most dire situations.
In search of hope, these photographers traveled to people living in some of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time to find that most intangible and often fleeting human emotion.
When they found it, the results were breathtaking:
1. In Ghana, hope is…
Hope is Munira Yakubu holding up Lorentia Bernard, her 2-year-old daughter, at their home in Widana in the Upper East region of Ghana.
Munira and Lorentia were abandoned by Lorentia’s father. Murina is still in school and sells maize and groundnuts outside her house during school holidays to earn money to pay her school fees and support her daughter.
2. In Nepal, hope is…
Hope is Kuisang Rumba, a famous Tamang language actor, dancing with 9-year-old Jamuna Nepali at a UNICEF Child-Friendly Space in Charikot, Dolakha District, Nepal.
On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed more than 8,000 people and destroyed massive amounts of property, including numerous temples that were on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
3. In Jordan, hope is…
Hope is 5-year-old Mohammed spraying water on his 11-year-old sister, Danya, and his cousins, 8-year-old Amnah and 4-year-old Mo’men, in the Za’atari refugee camp, in Mafraq Governorate. The family fled to this camp when their Syrian village was taken over by military forces in 2012.
The camp provides electricity at night, but during the day, refugees at the camp have to use what little water there is to combat Jordan’s brutally high temperatures.
Half of Syria’s population has been displaced by civil war.
4. In Uganda, hope is…
Hope is refugee children from South Sudan playing at a child-friendly space at a refugee settlement in Kiryandongo District.
Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees have been displaced by military conflicts.
5. In Greece, hope is…
Hope is refugees like Kinan Kadouni, 26, welcoming other refugees, like the boy he is carrying who has just arrived on the shore near the village of Skala Eressos, on the island of Lesbos, amid volunteers and other refugees. Both are refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic.
“This lovely boy made my day with his nice smile,” Mr. Kadouni told UNICEF. “When their boat arrived, everyone looked pale and afraid and this boy was the only one with a big smile, and that is how he drew my attention immediately. I went directly to him and got him out of the boat and we started playing and laughing… I always try to welcome them with a smiling face because I think that will make them comfortable.”
6. In Cameroon, hope is…
Hope is newlyweds Ibrahim and Hauna John embracing in the Minawao camp for Nigerian refugees in Far North Region. The couple got married in the camp the previous day.
While they planned to marry in their home village, they were forced to flee when it was attacked by Boko Haram insurgents. Ibrahim stayed in the village longer than Hauna in order to finish a school exam, though eventually they were reunited in the camp where they were photographed by UNICEF Africa.
“The very first day we met in the camp, I could not resist her. I had to hold her to my cheek. Really it was a great moment that day. Heaven was very close to me that day,” Ibrahim said.
7. In Uganda, hope is…
Hope is children watching a skit performed by other children at the Child Restoration Outreach, an organization helping street children in Africa.
In Africa, there are millions of children on the street. Organizations like the Child Restoration Outreach work to reintegrate them into the community, so they may become empowered, self-reliant, and proactive adults.
8. In Croatia, hope is…
Hope is teenagers playing in the sun in the UNICEF-supported family area at the reception center in Opatovac. Croatia recently opened its doors to refugees from Serbia.
“There were between 2,000 and 3,000 refugees stuck on the border in the mud and rain when the gates opened,” Al Jazeera wrote in October.
9. In Iraq, hope is…
Hope is Dunya, 13, opening a box of new winter shoes in her caravan in Baharka IDP Camp in Erbil Governorate.
In 2015, UNICEF distributed 200,000 sets of winter clothing to children and pregnant mothers in Iraq.
“In conditions where children have suffered, in some cases for years, from violence and exclusion from basic services such as education, it is unacceptable for them to not have shoes, coats or hats appropriate for the winter season,” says Dr. Marzio Babille, UNICEF’s representative in Iraq.
These photos are powerful. They show that hope is resilient and can be found anywhere.
Even in the midst of a tragedy or in a crisis with no end in sight, the one thing people always have is a glimmer of hope.
It’s not an accident that many of these pictures that encompass that feeling of hope are of children. Children have a unique ability to find hope in the world no matter where they’re from or what they’ve been through.
That’s something people lose sight of as we grow older. As life goes on and the world begins to place more weight on our shoulders, we should always remember that children all over the world continue to smile and dance. Hope can be fleeting, and hope can be false, but hope is also the reason to continue forward. Never forget that.