Children in Za'atari Refugee Camp

Understanding migration is critical to understanding global public health, according to Global Public Health Scholars Director Elisabeth Maring, as migration inevitably impacts health. This photo was taken in Za'atari Refugee Camp, which was the subject of the film Scholars screened in November. PHOTO: From the Flickr stream of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

3 Theme Questions With... Elisabeth Maring

Throughout the year, our Scholars faculty and staff across programs will share their responses to three questions around our 2018–19 annual theme, "Migrations: Populations and Practices on the Move." The questions typically relate to a resource directors are using in class. Following is the third entry in our “3 Questions With…” series. The first entry was with Tim Knight, director of the Environment, Technology and Economy Scholars program. The second was with Thomas Holtz, director of the Science and Global Change program.

Lis Maring_cropped.jpgName: Dr. Elisabeth Maring

Program: Global Public Health 

Resource: Living on One's 2015 documentary, "Salam Neighbor"



Q1: How do you use this resource in your classroom (if you do), and what led you to choose this as a migrations-oriented item?

In my course, Families and Global Health, I use material from Living on One's first project, “Living on One Dollar." In that documentary, a film team travels to Guatemala, learns to grow and buy food, and makes an effort to learn about the nutrients that may be unavailable to children and families in the community.

College Park Scholars organized an open screening in November of Living on One’s second film, “Salam Neighbor.” We hosted the screening in the Global Crossroads space of HJ Patterson during International Education Week, partnering with the Year of Immigration. The film captures the stories of children and adults living in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. According to the filmmaking team, more than 4.8 million people have been displaced due to the violence in Syria. I was interested in screening this documentary with students because it provided a window into the experience of individuals and families in a refugee camp. I hoped it would lead to discussion about critical topics such dignity, education, trauma and disease. I also wanted to invite dialogue about welcoming refugees and how to support countries that open doors to refugees.

Q2: What kinds of reactions did you get with this?

There was a great turnout for this event--more than 70 students attended, from across multiple programs! We did a short exercise after the film, where students finished the sentence, “Dignity means...” on a sticky note. Students made such observations as “Diginity means being able to thrive and grow, not just survive,” “Dignity means not having to worry about your personal security” and “Dignity is feeling like you can contribute to your community.” It was clear the film had an impact.

I hope the students who attended become interested in taking a deeper dive into the global health issues associated with refugees--such as hunger, violence, poverty, mental health issues, water, sanitation and infectious disease--and explore ways to address these issues.

Q3: What does "Migrations" mean to your Scholars program?

Discussing migration is critical to understanding global public health. Migration, whether voluntary or forced, impacts health. For many individuals and families, after all, migration leads to a short- or long-term stay in a refugee camp or other environment where violence, infectious disease and other unsafe conditions may cause vulnerability. Whether migration leads to internal displacement within one’s home country or flight across national borders, health is a human right.

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