13 March marked the fourth anniversary of the Syrian Civil War, an ongoing human rights crisis that has resulted in over 220,000 deaths, left 6.5 million people across the nation displaced and caused over four million to flee across the border. And although people in New Zealand are aware of the war, such statistics quoted in isolation do not provide a real sense of the loss that innocent people caught up in the skirmish.
So in an effort to present the human side of a story that is often lost in big numbers, World Vision partnered with NZ Herald to launch The Forgotten Millions campaign, which uses a journalistic approach to telling the stories of the people in Syria.
The campaign is fronted by Newstalk ZB journalist Rachel Smalley, who travelled with photographer Jo Currie to the Middle East to meet refugees and tell their stories.
"We wanted to bring home to New Zealanders the utter devastation of the crisis – and how our readers could help," says Smalley.
An active Twitter user, Smalley also used her social media skills to to give the campaign added reach.
In addition to producing an over-arching campaign video, Smalley also told the more detailed stories of some of the families she encountered, sharing heart-breaking accounts of young witnesses of the war.
“It is impossible to overstate the devastating impact this crisis has had on a generation of Syrian and Iraqi children," said World Vision head of external affairs Chloe Irvine when the campaign launched. "They have lost homes, friends, family members, and witnessed or experienced extreme violence. They are now living in makeshift tents and abandoned buildings, their families struggling for food every day.”
These individual stories, along with photographs taken by Currie, were published on the Herald every day during the campaign to drive awareness and encourage Kiwis to donate to the cause.
(Image credit: Jo Currie)
During its running course from 7 to 28 March, the campaign and raised $322,893, significantly exceeding the initial goal of $100,000.
New Zealand artists Dick Frizzell, Max Gimblett, Sara Hughes, Reuben Paterson and John Pule also produced artworks that were auctioned as part of the campaign, raising a further $22,000 (Frizzell also designed the logo for the campaign).
Although the World Vision account is held by Sugar & Partners, the agency's creative and digital director Dave Nash says that the agency was not involved in the final creative execution that has been published on the Herald for this campaign.
"As World Vision’s strategic and creative partner we have been strategically involved in the Rachel Smalley initiative for a long time now, but it has been driven internally by the PR team and we did not create the creative work as it happened organically as part of the editorial partnership," explains Nash.
The editorial independence given to Smalley on this campaign illustrates the strength of the Herald as a long-form digital storyteller. And given the effectiveness of this campaign in reaching the right audience, it wouldn't be far-fetched to see more brands—both not-for-profit and commercial—collaborating with the publication on such projects in the future.