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Apr 28, 2016 1:33 PM ET

Archived: Stronger Shines the Light Inside: A photography exhibition that illuminates the lives of refugees in the US, starting in Boise, ID

iCrowdNewswire - Apr 28, 2016

Stronger Shines the Light Inside.

Stronger Shines the Light Inside is a photography exhibition that illuminates the lives of refugees in the US, starting in Boise, ID.


About this project

Coming from deep family roots in Boise, I created Stronger Shines the Light Inside, a photography project and outdoor, public exhibition that will illuminate the refugee experience and help cultivate connection within the Boise community and beyond.


There are more refugees now than there have ever been in human history. Refugees are resettling throughout the United States- and a few special communities serve as a model for best resettlement practices. Boise, Idaho is one of them. While many facets of resettlement communities welcome refugees with open arms, acts of violence and discrimination continue to occur. Stronger Shines the Light Inside aims to share refugee stories of survival, resilience and success to cultivate a greater sense of connection in Boise and refugee communities beyond.

Alfonse, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo moved to Boise, ID four years ago.
Alfonse, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo moved to Boise, ID four years ago.

Donald Batubenga, one of Stronger Shines the Light Inside‘s early project participants, stated beautifully in an interview: 

“Coming from a different country, it is difficult to integrate into a new society. Refugees may look invisible in this community and this project is helping them to show their presence. They need to be visible, they need to be known, they need to be shown. Why? Because they will become an active part of this community. They are a part of this fabric. Refugees come from areas where they have been rejected. When they come to this new place, they want to feel like they belong, they want to be acknowledged. By hearing their stories, we can understand where they come from, where they have been, what kind of difficulties they have faced, and we can embrace them.” -Donald Batubenga, from the Democratic Republic of Congo


Your contribution will help fund the creation of this large scale, outdoor, public exhibition featuring over 40 intimate, arresting color portraits paired with compelling interviews in three locations in downtown Boise. Once the exhibition unveils in Boise, I plan to expand the project to include additional refugee communities throughout the U.S.

I received a $10,000 grant from the City of Boise which partially funded this endeavor. Since my initial grant proposal, the scope and quality of this project has expanded. My fundraising efforts have included applying for corporate sponsorships, grants, seeking private donors and now, Kickstarter. 

Your pledge on Kickstarter will help me pay for a portion of the costs required to finish creating the content of this exhibition and the costs needed to produce it. These include the travel expenses, writer’s fee, car rentals, fuel, food, the graphic designer’s fee, interpreters, photo assistants, web designer, web developer, lighting rentals, camera equipment rentals and audio rentals.

By pledging today, you will be supporting an exhibition that cultivates a more connected community in Boise and resettlement communities throughout the US. Each story featured in this exhibition is an opportunity to open hearts and shift perceptions around refugees and in turn, create a more welcoming environment for refugees in America. 

If you would like to your donation to this project to be tax deductible, I am working in partnership with the Lucie Foundation. You can make a check payable to: The Lucie Foundation attn: Stronger Shines the Light Inside, 550 N. Larchmont blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90004

Stronger Shines the Light Inside is still seeking sponsorships. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact Angie Smith at info@strongershinesthelightinside.com


My name is Angie Smith and I’m an photographer with deep family roots in Boise, Idaho that go back three generations. I shoot for clients like The New York Times Magazine, the New Yorkerand Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

I started Stronger Shines the Light Inside a year ago while visiting my family in Boise, Idaho when I was introduced to Rita Thara, a young refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. As I took her portrait, she told me the story of her father being shot while her family fled political violence in the DRC. In just 4 years, Rita has moved to Boise has established a thriving fashion business and is working everyday to achieve her dreams. Rita is just one example of thousands of hard-working refugees with inspiring stories that are integrating into American society, yet most of us know very little about them, the struggles they have gone through, what their families have survived and the positive economic contribution they are making to communities around the country.

A year ago, I began living part-time time in Boise to document the lives and stories of dozens of refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Syria, Burma, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bhutan and many more countries now living in Idaho. 

I knew that I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to help ease growing political tension in Idaho by deepening the community’s understanding of the refugee experience. I wanted to create a platform to share these inspiring stories of strength and help cultivate compassion around the refugee experience between all facets of the Boise community.

After getting to know many of the refugees that I photographed, I decided that interviews should play a more significant role. I teamed up with Hanne Steen, a writer who spent much of her childhood living in Rwanda, the Central African Republic and Kenya, who is helping me collect, translate and edit interviews with project participants.

Exhibition example
Exhibition example
Rita Thara in Boise, 2015.
Rita Thara in Boise, 2015.
Paw Lah Tse and Paw Lah Htoo in Boise, 2016.
Paw Lah Tse and Paw Lah Htoo in Boise, 2016.


Hand-beaded necklaces from Rwandan artists
Hand-beaded necklaces from Rwandan artists
Custom Polaroid signed by the artist and the photographic subject
Custom Polaroid signed by the artist and the photographic subject
Hand-made backpack by Rita Thara
Hand-made backpack by Rita Thara

Please chose from the images below if you ordered an archival 8×12″ or 11×17″ print:

Above: Paw Lah Tse and Paw Lah Htoo, 2016. Below: Sar Bah Bi, 2015.
Above: Paw Lah Tse and Paw Lah Htoo, 2016. Below: Sar Bah Bi, 2015.

15×23″ Archival C-print, edition of 15, signed by the artist:

Alfonse, 2016.
Alfonse, 2016.



My kids are the ones who keep me going. If I can see them laughing every day, I don’t think of anything else. I just feel happy. I feel thankful. When I see my son, I see myself as the young Khamisa that I used to be. Through God’s will and what happened, I couldn’t go back to school, I lost my mom, I lost friends, I lost everybody. But when I saw him, it kept me going. If there is something that can hurt him, it will hurt me more. I see him like a mirror in front of me. Both he and my daughter have passed through a hard life. I’ve seen a hard life through them.

Quotes from refugee participants:

“I got to be a part of this project and I am so happy to be. This project is helping a lot of refugees feel important, to feel special, open light, open eyes on us, on refugees. Show people what we are, why we are here, where we come from and what we survived. This project puts a light on us, let us be superstar, be super hero, show how we survive. We just want to be happy and lovely and be safe. This project will show you a lot of what we have done, how we succeed and how we are important to life.” —Shady from Syria

“I came from Iraq to the United States for freedom. I am so excited about this project because it is going to help educate other people understand and know who refugees are–we came here for freedom. We’re not dangerous, we’re not bad people. We are all human and we have hearts.” —Rana, from Iraq

Risks and challenges

Stronger Shines the Light Inside has a clearly defined goal: Use public art to bridge the gap between resettled refugees and the community they live in. To realistically achieve this, I have carefully planned and estimated costs for this project. Dozens of portraits and interviews are already completed and I’m committed to raising the funds needed for the exhibition.

Challenges: Since the necklaces, and backpacks are hand-made by various artisans, there is the potential for possible shifts or changes to fabrics and colors. However, high-quality craftsmanship is guaranteed.

Risks: For delivery time concerns, I am committed to creating and shipping rewards by the due dates indicated, though minor delays could occur.

Contact Information:

Angie Smith

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