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'She Is Syria' Shines Light on Women of the Refugee Crisis

For Shelley Cheung, the director and producer of "She Is Syria," a multimedia documentary that tells the stories of Syrian female refugees, the story of refugees is very personal. She is the child of a refugee herself, and grew up listening to her father tell stories of his experiences.

Before she started the project, she recalls seeing video and photos of refugees who were escaping Syria.

“Those images were seared into my mind because my father, growing up, told stories about how he swam across the Hong Kong, and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized what that meant,” Cheung told Global Citizen.

Cheung wanted to give refugees a chance to share their stories before and after crossing the ocean, especially women, without the bias of Western media.

“The word refugee has such stigma," Cheung said, "because you immediately think poor, downtrodden. But the women I met and the men as well, they were just trying to live their normal lives.”

So far, two episodes of "She Is Syria" have been produced, and Cheung, along with the project's producer Sarah Mardini, co-producer Rania Ahmed, photographer and story producer Katie Salisbury, are raising funds on Go Fund Me to continue producing footage.

Before working on "She Is Syria," Cheung's experience was in the corporate world: She worked on broadcast and digital advertisements for clients like Facebook, American Express, Google, and Samsung. But one of her recent works, “Witness the Power of Story,” was created for Viacom and was featured at SXSW 2016 to create a dialogue around social change.

Cheung’s passion for change is evident in this work and her other projects.

The inspiration behind "She is Syria" came from watching news and seeing all the visuals, images, and stories surrounding the refugee crisis over the last few years. Seeing the rhetoric that has been used in the US, which Cheung believes to be fear, made her upset. Seeing the refugee crisis and the emphasis the US places on the politics of their situation, as opposed to the humanity of these women and children, became frustrating.

So she decided to do something about it.

“We’re all humans and we’re all connected,” she said. And she could not be more right.