Gaza photo contest: And the winner is ...

West Bank and Gaza, October 13, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    Seventeen-year-old Mado Askri poses with his first-place certificate. On the right is his mother and on the left is Mira Bakry, Mercy Corps' youth program coordinator in Gaza. Photo: Mercy Corps

In my last post, I talked about how we managed to print photos in Jerusalem taken by Gaza youth for a special photo exhibit entitled "Recognizing Our Common Humanity."

We invited 100 students in the Gaza Strip, 15-21 years old, to help others see the world through their eyes through photographs. We posted the photos online and invited people to vote on them. And we also assembled a jury of four professional photographers in the U.S. to decide three winners.

On September 29, at an outdoor seaside restaurant in Gaza City, we held our award ceremony for this exhibition, which so many people were involved in and helped to make it a success.

As we announced the name of the first winner, a woman suddenly jumped from her chair while barely controlling a sort of a scream. We were all confused since the winner was a young boy, Mado Askari, 17 years old. And Mado himself, who could not believe that he had won the first prize, stood frozen at the end of the hall.

The woman ran quickly towards him and ignoring 100 people sitting all around, grabbed his hands and kissed them, then his face, then his hair. It was his mom! Everyone was cheering around, and everyone had teary eyes. There, for a moment, we all experienced live a true human moment. It is a moment that I will never forget.
Mado's winning photograph and the second- and third-place photos are below. (Both the professional jury and the online voters chose the same first-place winner.) To see all the photos, click here.

First prize: Mado Askri, "Hope for the future"

Second prize: Ikhlas Abu Roos, "Me and the sea"

Third prize: Nour Al Sosi, "Children teaching each other how to swim"