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See Photos Taken By Torture Victims at Elmhurst Hospital

By Katie Honan | January 30, 2015 12:48pm
 The four photographers took part in a project at The Libertas Center for Human Rights at Elmhurst Hospital.
Torture Victims Share Experiences in Photo Project at Elmhurst Hospital
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ELMHURST  Members of a human rights program will have their photos on display at Elmhurst Hospital part of a project that empowers the most vulnerable communities around the world.

Four participants from The Libertas Center for Human Rights, which began at the hospital's emergency room in 2010, worked on the project since the summer.

It's the first time the Photovoice Project, run by photographer Daniel Jack Lyons, took place at the human rights center.

It aims to decrease social isolation and bolster creativity, Lyons writes on his site. He's brought the project around the world, working with members of the LGBT community in Africa and with gay men in Washington Heights' Dominican community.

The four photographers at Elmhurst Hospital were selected based on their interest and time commitment, and while they all come from different countries they bonded, according to Dr. Dinali Fernando, who works at Libertas and in the hospital's ER.

They selected the theme, "New Life, New Beginning," and set out across the city to capture moments, people and objects that were important to them as they seek asylum in the United States. It was funded by Councilman Danny Dromm.

Photographer Mamadou, 32, never touched a camera before joining the class but said he picked it up quickly.

He took photos that shared some of his feelings since fleeing the Ivory Coast for New York City a few years ago.

"This is me," he said of his four photos that hang in the lobby.

One photo shows another immigrant from the Ivory Coast who helped him when he first arrived. Another is of a school where he learned English.

And his photo of a few pigeons in Central Park was inspired by a childhood story of a man in his village who turned his fortunes around after killing a bird with a slingshot.

"Bird of Fortune" was similar to his own luck, Mamadou said.

"I never thought when I was in Africa and suffering so much, that somehow it would bring me to the United States," he wrote about the photo.

Photovoice is the first project like it at The Libertas Center, which has provided support for hundreds of patients who come from 63 countries and speak 57 languages since opening in 2010.

The program began after doctors conducted a survey and found out between 6 and 8 percent of their patients — which is thousands of people — suffered with physical, mental and emotional scars as the result of torture and other persecution.

A creative project like Photovoice is just another tool the doctors can use in helping their patients adjust to a new life, according to Dr. Braden Hexom. 

"We hoped it would be therapeutic," he said. "People heal differently, and this is one of many ways they can heal."