The UN SDG Action Campaign collaborated with the World Humanitarian Summit, UNOCHA, DFID and Samsung UK to design and coordinate two exhibition booths showcasing Clouds Over Sidra during the Supporting Syrians conference in London on 4 February.
The exhibitions gave world leaders, conference attendees and volunteers the chance to experience the Syrian crisis through the eyes of Sidra, a 12 year old girl living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.
The conference raised over US$ 11 billion in pledges in total. This included $5.8 billion for 2016 and $5.4 billion for 2017-20 to enable partners to plan ahead for the response. Commitments were also made to improve education and economic opportunities for refugees.
Those who were able to experience Virtual Reality were moved by the film, exclaiming that everyone should see it and returning with their colleagues and friends. Several visitors cried envisioning the harsh conditions many Syrian refugees face, especially children. One young visitor declared that VR would be extremely useful in his classroom to understand world issues. He was part of an exchange program between an English and Lebanese children.
Clouds Over Sidra,which was created to support the United Nations Secretary-General’s MDG Advocacy Group’s call for partnerships to build resilience in vulnerable communities, immerses the viewer in the life of Sidra, a young Syrian girl living in the Za’atari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Gabo Arora — one of the co-creators of Clouds Over Sidra — says that the inspiration behind the project was to use virtual reality to give a platform for viewers to gain a better grasp of the conditions in camps like Za’atari stating, “if we used virtual reality and made them actually walk in [Sidra’s] shoes…. they would care and be moved to action”.
The event used Samsung Gear VR headsets to give people the opportunity to experience the daily life of one of the many children whose lives have been changed dramatically by the conflict in small groups. These intimate screenings were followed up with a Q&A session moderated by Arora along with Dr. Wei Kunlin, Associate Professor at Peking University, Olivier Oullier, Professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at Aix-Marseille University; and Yobie Benjamin, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer of Avegant Corporation. The Q&A session discussed the impact virtual reality can have on outreach and advocacy for global issues such as the Syria Conflict that would otherwise be impossible with conventional forms of media.
In addition, the WEF took the screening as an opportunity to announce their plans to fund the translation of Clouds Over Sidra into Mandarin, bringing further light to a vital issue both to influential decision makers as well as the general public.