‘8borders 8days’: NaTakallam helps give a voice to Syrian refugees seeking safety worldwide

No Lost Generation UConn hosts a screening of the documentary "8 Borders, 8 Days" and a discussion at the Konover Auditorium on Feb. 28, 2018. The discussion included a Q&A with Hadiya Ahmed, a woman who left Syria as a refugee. (Judah Shingleton/The Daily Campus)

No Lost Generation UConn, a student organization created to support refugees worldwide, hosted a screening and discussion of the documentary film “8borders 8days” in partnership with NaTakallam on Wednesday evening in the Konover Auditorium. The film explores the journey of a single mother and her two young children as they escape Syria and live as refugees. Following the screening, students and faculty were able to participate in a Skype call with a Syrian refugee who is a part of NaTakallam.

“8borders 8days,” a documentary directed and produced by Amanda Bailly filmed in 2015, follows Syrian refugee Sham, a fierce single mother to a young daughter and son, who escapes from Syria and travels all the way to Germany, passing through countries such as Greece and Hungary. The film exposes the brutal conditions and treatment refugees are faced with and how difficult it can be to find safety.

The film would often depict scenes of dirty tent areas, where refugees would sleep, people travelling quietly through tall grasses to cross country borders and crowds of refugees being herded by unfriendly police. “8borders 8days” makes it obvious that trying to seek refuge is no easy task.

Sham’s troubles began when she decided to divorce her abusive husband. She was the first person to get divorced in her family, which caused her to be shunned by her family. To escape the backlash from her family she moved with her children to Lebanon and applied to move to America. Before hearing back she began being questioned by the government, accusing her of being a terrorist. They would threaten her and treat her as a criminal. This is what prompted her journey to cross country borders with other refugees until she arrived in Germany, which at the time had a relatively open border policy.

“When you start this journey, you can’t control where it takes you or what path you take. The journey controls you,” Sham said.

Despite many hardships, Sham and her children eventually arrive in Germany and are able to start over to some extent. Despite this “happy ending,” the documentary still shows many heart-wrenching scenes that really put into perspective how difficult it is these refugees to survive, let alone prosper.

“The journey was so hard,” Sham says once in Germany. “It was so hard.”

NaTakallam is an organization that pairs Arabic-speaking refugees with learners around the world for language practice over Skype. It creates both job opportunities and expansion of language and culture, and has been expanding very rapidly.

Hadiya Ahmed, a translator that works with NaTakallam, Skyped with the audience after the movie screening to share her story and further put into perspective how Syrian refugees face so many hardships. She moved to Iraq in 2013 with her husband and daughter to seek refuge and has lived in a camp since then. She has faced a long battle with illness since before her move, and claims that working is what has helped her recover.

“If it is safe, I’d like to go back to Syria, but for now I would like to travel to Europe,” Ahmed explained. The camp she is currently living in isn’t sanitary enough for her health and she could find better treatment in European countries.

Hannah Bissonnette, an eighth-semester political science and human rights major, is president of No Lost Generation UConn and organized this event. “This [screening of “8borders 8days”] is a program they run. We were interested in such an interactive event,” Bissonnette said.

“It’s hard to feel like you can have an impact on such huge issues like this,” Bissonnette said. “But little things count.”

No Lost Generation is a newly founded club whose mission is to help refugees by promoting awareness, volunteering and fundraising. They are partners with organizations such as UNICEF, Save the Children and NaTakallam. This was their first event of the semester, but they are hoping to host a few more events within the next few months.

“As cliche as it sounds, people are people. There is so much stigma around refugees and it is such a politicized issue,” Bissonnette said. “Just keep in mind they are people too.”


Melissa Scrivani is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at melissa.scrivani@uconn.edu.