These are some images I captured for a non-profit organization called Arrive Ministries based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was an honor to document this Karen family arriving from Thailand after spending years at a refugee camp there. The anticipation and excitement were evident leading up to the emotional welcome with aunts and uncles.
I'm passionate about the refugee crisis. It really came from numerous experiences that shaped that passion and desire. I remember when I moved from Turkey back to the States in 2017, I felt a strong urgency to visit one of the refugee camps on the border. However, this was quite difficult and dangerous so I left Turkey thinking my dream would fade. When I moved to the States however, it actually just kept growing stronger. I’d known for a long time that there was something in me that was drawn to people and photographing them. I think so much of it has to do with growing up in the Middle East. From a young age, I was surrounded in cultures that didn’t reflect my own. I was conversational in Dari by the age of seven, and experienced cross-cultural moves for most of my growing up. Traveling and seeing other cultures and ways of life was like breathing to me. It just comes naturally.
I started volunteering with a Minneapolis based organization called Arrive Ministries (formally World Relief Minnesota) at the beginning of 2019. I reached out to organizations closest to me, and they were the ones that were most open to media assistance. They’ve been so kind to work with, and it’s really given me more opportunities to do what I love!
There have been many instances where I went, “This is what I was made to do.” Something specifically clicked when I went to visit Israel my first time back in 2017. During this time in Israel, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit a non-violent resistance camp in the West Bank. I recall asking one Palestinian man after visiting a non-violent resistance camp where he lived, “What would you like me to tell people about this experience?” He responded with, “Tell our stories. Tell the stories for those who are silenced.” Since then I’ve been dedicated to doing just that. My passion to pursue humanitarian work has only grown since then. Whether it’s in caves in Palestine or the homes of refugees in the Bahamas, I’m committed to speaking up through me lens to give visual voice describing the experiences of those I come in contact with.”
Arrive Ministries (formerly World Relief Minnesota) resettles refugees in Minnesota through our reputation of dedicated staff and energetic volunteers who guide our new neighbors through the resettlement process. They work to empower refugees and immigrants coming to America by providing homes, jobs, and logistical support.
Joanna is a traveling humanitarian photographer capturing the stories of those she meets. She grew up in the Middle East in Afghanistan and Turkey for the majority of her childhood and early teen years. Currently, she lives in Minnesota but travels frequently dedicating time to documenting her experiences through her lens and advocating for others to do the same.