Images of 'Refuge in the Valley'

Aug 1, 2017

Since 1988, an organization called  Church World Service has resettled about 3,500 refugees from around the world to the Shenandoah Valley. This month the Harrisonburg office is hosting a photography exhibit featuring 29 portraits of these refugees. WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports.

This year’s exhibit — the sixth of its kind — is called “Refuge in the Valley: Portraits of Hope” and shows residents of Harrisonburg and Rockingham, Augusta, and Shenandoah counties who came here as refugees from seven countries: Pakistan, Iraq (including Kurdish Iraq), Congo, Sudan, Syria, Cuba, and Central African Republic.

Ernie Didot is one of the three contributing photographers. He tried to capture personality and feeling in his pictures, and would ask his subjects a question.

ERNIE DIDOT: What brings you the most joy? So one woman, was worshiping and praising God. I said, 'Well, sing a little bit of that song or something for me.' 'Oh, OK,' and next thing you know, she has her hands raised up and looking up to heaven.

Sarah Coleman organized the show.

SARAH COLEMAN: It’s actually our privilege to have these people coming here. I think if folks take a look at the photos and read some of the stories that we've collected and the hopes that we've collected, we’re hoping they'll see these are some pretty incredible people who are coming here and they're bringing a lot here with them.

Presented in conjunction with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the show begins Friday [August 4, 2017] at 292 North Gallery and will conclude later in the month with a panel discussion about what it means to be a refugee in America and in the Shenandoah Valley.