2017 Kosmos Seed Grant Recipient | SExSE Refugee Center, “We’re Listening”

Congratulations to Southeast by Southeast, recipient of a 2017 Kosmos Seed Grant. “We’re Listening,” is a project that gives refugee children, age 8-14, a voice using the creative process of short, animated video storytelling. This project is a collaboration between SExSE and Ellen Reynolds, a documentary cinematographer and educator passionate about promoting children’s wellness and supporting their point of view.

Photo by Steve Weinik

Southeast by Southeast, funded by Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Project, is a refugee support center that uses the modality of art to offer refugees an opportunity to feel welcome, safe, supported, and engaged in their new community. Some of the participants at the Center arrive in Philadelphia after years in refugee camps without English language skills or psychological coping resources. Children are especially welcome at the Center for after-school and summer activities and fill the family space with their energy and optimism every day.

The Seed Grant will be used to conduct a series of workshop sessions in coordination with Shira Walinsky, Director of SExSE, in which children ages 8-14 will share their dreams, concerns, observations and requests through the making of short, animated videos. In a series of six two-hour workshops, small groups of children will record interviews with each other about their experiences. These interviews next become the basis for short animations the children themselves will help create. This offers a safe way for the children to share their experiences, while keeping their identity private. The final animations will be shared with children, educators, policy-makers and others.

Project Director Ellen Reynolds

Project Director Ellen Reynolds is a resident of Philadelphia, a documentary maker, an inspiring educator of students at all ages, and a film studies scholar with a focus on children’s media and education. Her commitment as a filmmaker is to illuminate positive work and ideas in the areas of education; children’s experiences and points of view; and physical/spiritual/social wellness.

Statement from Ellen Reynolds:

Thank you sincerely for the Award. It is exciting news. Animation can be a powerful way for children to share their perspectives, experiences, questions, and dreams. The collaborative work encourages participation, and empowers self expression. Crucially, it is not language based, and can provide the security of anonymity while being fully expressive. The results can seem magical, and offer an encouraging reward for the bravery it takes to be truthful. South Philadelphia, like many urban neighborhoods, is a patchwork of long settled and more recently arrived ethnic groups. Communication between the groups, essential for evolving an inclusive and empathetic civic space can be difficult. Southeast by Southeast focuses on engagement with the Arts as a means of preserving and sharing identities and perspectives. This workshop will be a welcome opportunity to continue this work, especially as funding for their arts programs has been reduced in the past year.

Children’s voices are frequently overlooked in civic dialogue, yet their exuberant and honest perspectives are those of our most treasured navigators into the future. My previous work with children in media making workshops assures me that there is much reason to be excited to see what they will produce with this exciting opportunity!
– Ellen Reynolds

Follow Southeast by Southeast at www.muralarts.org/program/porch-light/sexse/