Finding the Lost Children of Rwanda
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Photographer Seamus Conlan took up on a project by photographing the lost children of Rwanda, trying to reunite with their parents.


Finding the Lost Children of Rwanda Host: The opening of an exhibition at an Art Market Gallery in New York visitors to the International Center of Photography to find themselves confronted by wall after wall of little faces, each different, each one tells a story - a story of war, of suffering, of abandonment. These are the lost children of Rwanda. The 6000 images on display are just some of the 21,000 taken by a photojournalist Seamus Conlon and Tara Farrell in an effort to reunite lost, displaced or orphaned Rwandan children with their families. While exhibiting the photographs around the world, they also have to make people understand about the scale of the problem. Seamus Conlon: In years, like when you see you know of 20,000 unaccompanied children or 10,000. The number really doesn’t mean anything or exactly how is in fact this particular child or even this particular child, because every single one is completely different and every single one actually has her experience. So, it’s a kind of a personal experience, you have to pay it to see it or rather than just read about that’s very many passages and then you now turn the page and see what is on the TV. Host: The project begun in 1994 in Goma and what was then Zaire where hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees were seeking shelter after the genocide and Civil War in their own country. Some of these children saw both their parents hop to death. Others were separated from their families as they rush to safety. Seamus Conlon: Okay! Over here. Host: Sick of his role photographing the dead and dying for newspapers and magazines around the world, Seamus Conlon turned his attention to the living. Taking up to a thousand photographs a day at orphanages and refugee camps, he tried with the help of UNICEF to reunite the missing children with their families. Each child held the preference number to make it easier to trace them. All the numbers were coded up to children’s on bounds, which recorded where the children were found, the parent’s names, the family name and other personal details. Seamus Conlon: Actually, it’s the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my life, you know. I mean every single child like I mean you can change their virtually. Host: And the work of Seamus Conlon and other photographers has change lives. Over the last two years, the photographs have helped to reunite thousands of parents with their missing children. The Central Africa continues to be a region of unrest, this method of tracing families will maintain its importance. The Rwandan project is thought to be the largest used of photography for this purpose ever and there are plans to extend the photo tracing schemes so that all the many children too young to give adequate information about themselves can find their families. This mother spots his six-year-old son among the crowd of faces on display. Female: I lost my boy when I was packing my belongings. Later I found out he had been picked up by someone who had put him into a UN truck. Host: After ten months without news of his son, this man had feared the worst until he spotted him among the photographs. A few hours later, the boy is reunited with his mother and meets for the first time with his baby sister. And the woman who has traced her daughter, a child that she thought she’d never seen again. Female: We lost each other in the forest when the fighting began. Host: But while they celebrate, other children have not been so lucky. Many of them are still waiting and hoping that someone somewhere will recognize their photographs and come to collect them.