Sharjah: Xposure Festival to fund schooling of Syrian refugee boy featured in photo

Photographer Rodrigues Mghames honoured for sharing Hussein’s story.


Afkar Ali Ahmed

Published: Wed 9 Feb 2022, 7:41 PM

Last updated: Wed 9 Feb 2022, 9:24 PM

A poignant image of 10-year-old Hussein enjoying a quiet moment with a book while seated on the edge of a garbage bin has demonstrated the astonishing power of a single photograph in stirring emotions and driving positive change at the sixth edition of the Xposure International Photography Festival that opened on Wednesday at Expo Centre Sharjah.

Hussein, who fled with his family from Syria to Lebanon, had to drop out of school and collect junk, scrap and plastic from trash cans to support his family. On finding a book in the garbage bin one day, the young boy began to read, as if to escape from the harsh reality around him.

The iconic picture, captured at that crucial moment by architect Rodrigues Mghames, has changed the boy’s life forever. The image, shared on social media platforms, went ‘viral’ in a few hours, and became a subject of discussion on key Arabic and international media outlets as it depicted Hussein’s thirst for knowledge and passion for reading, despite his circumstances.

Xposure on Wednesday announced the sponsorship of Hussein’s education until high school in cooperation with The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a UAE-based global humanitarian organisation. The picture reflects a key message embraced at Xposure about the inherent power of photography as a force for good and its ability to make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities.

Xposure also honoured Mghames at the opening ceremony of the festival for sharing Hussein’s story with the world. Mghames said he had contacted several charity and humanitarian organisations to help fund Hussein’s education and support his family, and said Xposure’s gesture is a fine example of the manifestation of the value of art and its role in the elevation of humanity.


Tariq Saeed Allay, director-general of event organisers Sharjah Government Media Bureau SGMB, said: “By highlighting suffering and injustices, photography gives the world insights into people’s diverse conditions, all of which have a great impact on the viewers. By supporting Hussein, Xposure wants his picture to be a global message that takes photography’s role beyond observing and documenting reality to become a tool for changing it for the better and a means to explore solutions to the problems spotlighted by photographers.”

Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, said: “This initiative reflects the values of compassion embodied in the UAE and particularly in Sharjah, to come to the assistance and support of less fortunate people. This aligns with TBHF’s core mission to protect and empower vulnerable children and their families in vulnerable situations across the world. We believe that knowledge and education are pivotal to changing people’s lives and aim to help fulfil Hussein’s passion for reading. In collaboration with our partners in Lebanon, TBHF will ensure his access to education with Xposure, which is today setting forth an inspiring example of how creative events and festivals can support humanitarian causes.”

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