Douglas Herman and Sonia Nandzik want to start conversations about the global refugee crisis 

click to enlarge DOUGLAS HERMAN
  • Douglas Herman
The straight-line distance from one point to another and the length of the actual route a person takes to get there can be very different. That’s something that struck journalists Douglas Herman and Sonia Nandzik while in Lesbos, Greece, working with refugees from Syria and other countries. They started tracing the paths taken by some of the people they met, and while Google Maps says someone can walk from Aleppo, Syria, to mainland Greece and the relative safety of the European Union in around 1,400 kilometers, the actual route refugees took was much longer: nearly 2,000 kilometers.

Nandzik is a former policy advisor with the European Parliament and a holder of a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Silesia in Katowice and a master’s in international relations from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Herman’s a former public schoolteacher from Philadelphia with a master’s from the Center for Creative Teaching at Bennington College. He also founded the media studies program at the Science Leadership Academy, a Philly high school. Their multimedia documentary project, @1976km, honors that refugee journey.
The number of people who’ve fled Syria since the civil war began in 2011 — 5.6 million as of February 2018 — is overwhelming. Originally, Nandzik says, the project was just a way to give humanity to this ongoing refugee crisis, elevating blogs and photos provided by refugees. It’s expanded to include video content and podcasts, and it now also highlights the work communities have done to respond to the crisis. They’re hoping @1976km will open up conversations around the globe.

They’re coming to the Springs as part of that work. Herman’s former colleague Christina Classen teaches in the social studies department at Doherty High School, and last year Herman came to visit. This year, Herman and Nandzik will present at Doherty during the day and later they’ll be at Colorado College for an interactive public event.

They’re also discussing the Rohingya crisis: Since August 2017, almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled mass violence in Myanmar. Most are in Bangladesh, but Nandzik and Herman became aware of the crisis after meeting a group of them in Morocco, over 9,000 kilometers away from the refugee camp in Bengladesh.

“They basically crossed the whole way to Morocco from Bangladesh trying to find asylum in Europe,” says Nandzik.

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