Searching For Syria – an innovative project from UNHCR and Google

As the conflict in Syria stretches deep into its sixth year, the crisis has become all the more convoluted. It’s difficult to differentiate all of the competing factions, but it’s necessary to maintain some sort of understanding if we hope to enact feasible change.

The burden has fallen on aid organizations to keep viewers engaged and informed — a difficult feat considering the flood of information on social media. In this week’s post, I want to highlight one project in particular that I found to be uniquely innovative.

Searching for Syria

Searching for Syria — funded by UNHCR, in partnership with Google — is an interactive website that dissects the conflict in Syria by layering individual media components to create one comprehensive guide. The platform begins with Syria’s history before the war. Google contributed search statistics (Miley Cyrus was a top search in Syria in 2010), which, combined with tourism numbers and cultural facts, paints a picture of a thriving and modernizing country.

The site then delves into the current war and destruction: how and when it began, how many people have been killed and how many others have been forced to flee their homes. These facts and statistics are interwoven with personal stories, videos, photography and animated graphics. The site is captivating in its ability to seamlessly switch between mediums. By dividing each section of the site into the five of the most googled questions about the conflict such as, “how can I help Syrian refugees?” it becomes a fluid piece that encourages the reader to continue scrolling.

Searching for Syria finds impact in showing Syrian refugees as contributing members of our global community who are in need equal protection, not as helpless victims. Some of the most compelling facts are those which highlight the success of individuals within the Syrian community, like app-developer Mojahed Akil and refugee athlete Yusra Mardini.

This project helps people understand Syrian refugees as more than just statistics, and will hopefully will encourage increased international support and understanding.

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