For many, the enormity and complexity of the global refugee crisis can feel overwhelming. It is easy to lose sight of the individuals affected by displacement and see only the scale of the situation. With the “We Were Here” series, we aimed to give viewers an opportunity to identify with refugees by connecting with something we all share – creativity. Refugees have hopes and dreams like anyone else, and being able to do what matters most to them has the power to impact the world.
To mark the annual observance of World Refugee Day on June 20, 2023, USA for UNHCR partnered with YouTube to challenge stereotypes and perceptions of refugees and raise awareness of the global refugee crisis through digital storytelling.
To bring these refugee stories to life, UNHCR and YouTube paired three of the platform’s creators – with a combined reach of over 6 million subscribers – with three refugees, living in difficult circumstances, to create a series of short films that showcase their shared imagination, resilience, creativity and courage.
The refugees and YouTube creators featured in the films are:
The series was created and produced in collaboration with Uncommon Creative Studio in association with Lief, who brought together a team of award-winning filmmakers. The team included renowned director Alma Har’el as executive producer, Oscar-nominated director Laura Checkoway, internationally acclaimed Jordanian director Mahmoud Al Massad and British-Ghanaian rising star Curtis Essel. The film scores were overseen by music supervisor Bridget Samuels.
The series was launched on World Refugee Day and promoted through creator, organization and personal social networks. In addition, the series was promoted through outdoor media and cinema screenings in major media markets such as New York City.
As of September 6, 2023, the series has received over 590K views and nearly 50K likes on YouTube.
Additionally, launch day posts on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook received a combined 225K impressions, 5,600 positive engagements.
Most importantly, each of the final short films provides an authentic and moving portrait of the refugee experience that is relatable and will hopefully inspire individuals to take action to support the more than 110 million displaced people around the world.