AT TAYLOR'S: Reuben Cheong (ReubenDeShen.Cheong@taylors.edu.my)
PROJECT PARTNER: Alliance of Chin Refugees (acrmalaysia@yahoo.com)
Everyone Has Hope is a project created by the Canadian Pre-University (CPU) students and teachers of Taylor's College Subang Jaya. This project tries to explain what life is like for these refugees seen through the eyes of photographs that the students themselves take. As part of the project the youths, mostly 13 to 16 years old, are taught the art of photography through the help of local photographers and artists who run workshops with the students.

Teacher-Coordinator Daniel Layng explains, "These teenagers are inherently inquisitive and creative, and this project takes advantage of those abilities to turn life into art." Inspired by the Indian documentary Born Into Brothels, this is a community project that seeks to transform struggle into creative expression. Photos taken by these youths are sold in various exhibitions and the money raised is donated to the Alliance of Chin Refugees (ACR) school.READ MORE There are an estimated 100,000 refugees living in Malaysia who cannot attend public school because they are stateless. As many as 40,000 of them come to Malaysia from Myanmar looking for a better home.

Colin Shafer, the founder of Everyone Has Hope wanted to find a way to engage these young people with the communities they found themselves in. “I was looking for a way to promote inquiry and creativity and I thought that photography could do that. This project chooses student pictures that stand out as rare, revealing and sobering representations of their lives as refugees in Malaysia; pictures that do not merely expound destitution and despair, but rather illustrate the victory of art over anguish; humanity over humility.”

Daniel Layng, who took over from Colin Shafer when the latter moved to London to continue his own education, has carried on this worthwhile initiative. He reflects on its direction: “The ultimate goal of the project is to allow these youths to have a voice, build invaluable skills, and raise money for organizations that are helping refugees here in Malaysia. Awareness of this issue is the key in bringing about efforts to implement a more humane and coherent policy in dealing with the refugee situation in Malaysia." Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Nora Murat noted that the youth were the ones who served as a catalyst to affect change. “These photographs help personalize the refugees’ issues and allow the public to understand their life, difficulties, fears and hopes.” Datuk Marina Mahathir was present on the opening night of the exhibition which also featured performances by Myanmar children. 

Exhibitions of student photographs are on display in various venues throughout the year. Please visit the project Facebook page for details of the next exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.