Sorrowful eyes, staring into nothing; the occasional, tentative smile; small hands, protectively clasping another child’s hand. Quiet suffering in the eyes of a child says more about the reality of war than we could ever glean from any news report. Growing up amidst the civil war that has divided Syria since 2011, all these children have known is a world of violence, pain and loss. At the SOS Kinderdorf, the hope is that they will find a way to process what they have experienced.
German photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Etter took his camera on a visit to the SOS Kinderdorf facility on the outskirts of Damascus. With the aid of carers, psychologists and SOS mothers, he found a way to connect with the traumatised children – and has captured their emotions in his pictures. Their faces, gestures and expressions speak of their past, but also of the fact that now, at last, they can look to a future that promises them a safe home.
The SOS Kinderdorf organisation has been dedicated to helping children in crisis for almost seventy years. In 1949, the Austrian philanthropist Hermann Gmeiner founded the world’s first SOS Children’s Village in Imst, Tyrol – borne out of the idea that every unparented child should still be able to grow up within the secure framework of a mother, siblings, a home and a community.
Out of these four basic principles grew a world-wide organisation offering effective aid programmes that are specifically designed to help at-risk children build an autonomous future. Along with individual support, such as education, childcare and microcredits, the organisation has its own schools, nurseries and training centres. It also establishes medical centres in places of need, and provides emergency relief in areas affected by war and natural catastrophes.
The exhibition Port in the Storm is open at the LFI Editorial Offices in Hamburg from 29 September to 18 October 2017.