How social media can help articulate difficult situations

The viral nature of social platforms has given charities and the wider public greater access to the plight of those suffering in war zones such as Syria, Kirsty Marrins writes

Kirsty Marrins
Kirsty Marrins

Tuesday 15 March 2016 marked the 5th anniversary of the outbreak of war in Syria. For charities working in conflict zones, social media allows them to give their supporters, the media and the public unprecedented access to situations we could never imagine and in real time. Here’s how three charities used digital to mark the occasion and raise awareness of the plight of Syrians.

War Child UK

War Child protects and supports children affected by war so it was fitting that they chose to mark the occasion with a video of a poem by 15 year old Omar, which was voiced over by famous faces, including Carey Mulligan, Jack Whitehall and Rita Ora and had almost 10,000 views across Facebook and YouTube.

This was part of an integrated campaign, which included PR, video, social media and email marketing. The charity’s CEO Rob Williams was on breakfast television with War Child Ambassador Carey Mulligan, who talked about her experience of visiting the refugee camp Zaatari and meeting Omar and his family.

Syria 5 years: Famous faces recite Omar's poem

Please share this special video to mark the 5th anniversary of the outbreak of war in Syria. A beautiful poem by Omar, a 15-year-old refugee, spoken by Rita Ora, Marcus Mumford, Hozier, Jack Whitehall, Carey Mulligan, Dianna Agron and Jack Garratt. #withSyria

Posted by War Child UK on Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Throughout the day the charity tweeted using the hashtag #WithSyria to mark the occasion by sharing the video, a Guardian interview with one of their psycho-social workers in Zaatari and well as urging people to sign their petition to ask the UK government to protect children in conflict.

On Facebook they asked for people to simply share the video to reach more people so that Omar’s story could be heard. Many of the celebrities in the video also shared it via social, along with a link to the petition.

Dave O’Carroll, Head of Digital at War Child UK said "We normally get 30 or 40 engagements a day on Twitter so getting over 14,000 in one day was very big for us. More importantly, it meant that we were engaging thousands more people in the message of remembering the children of Syria.

"And most importantly, we’ve inspired people to take action via our online petition for children in conflict. We’ve had as many signatures on it since Tuesday as we had for the whole first two weeks of March."

Save the Children UK

Save the Children UK marked the anniversary by sharing live stories, photos and video over two days via Twitter and Facebook of children in Zaatari using the hashtag #ZaatariLive. They used a combination of live tweets, Periscope and Facebook livestream where children and Save the Children staff were able to share their stories in their own voices.

We're live from a kindergarten in Zaatari camp, Jordan. Talking to staff about the experiences of 5 year olds growing up as Syrian refugees for the past 5 years. #zaatariLive

Posted by Save the Children UK on Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The live feed has brought the refugee camp to life and opens up a window into their every day reality.

There was also a donation ask, however not using the same hashtag:

Amnesty International UK

Like War Child UK, Amnesty International UK also used the hashtag #WithSyria and they used the day to launch their new project, Fear of the Sky, which is a website displaying 360 degree photos taken by activists to show the utter devastation caused by bomb attacks in Syria. There is a voiceover too and chapters, one of which asks you to make a donation. It’s really powerful and effective. They posted this video on their Facebook page:

'Everyone here is young and Syrian. Nearly all of us have a parent, a sibling, a cousin, dear friends or colleagues who...

Posted by Amnesty International UK on Tuesday, 15 March 2016

What I love about these three campaigns is that they are quite journalistic in their approach. Sometimes, these types of anniversaries could just be an afterthought but they’ve been well thought through and planned and judging by the results, from War Child UK in particular, it’s paid off.

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