How I got back the energy and confidence to keep doing…

Posted on May 6, 2014 | No Comments

ChawEiCompressedBy: Chaw Ei Thein

In 2006, I came to New York for a yearlong artist residency program and during that time, I was warned that my safety could not be assured if I were to return to Burma. The reason I could not return was my artwork, interviews I had given with the international media and newspaper articles about my work as it related to a critique of the political situation in Burma at that time. Unable to return home, I was facing very difficult time settling in to life in New York; I was totally frustrated and very worried about how to live, find a way to survive and uncertain as to whether I could continue my career as an artist in this new place with its new challenges.

Then in 2010, one of my friends, an artist who lives in Brooklyn introduced me to Todd Lester, founder of freeDimensional. fD provided the support I needed to restart my life as an artist in New York City, connecting me to the arts community, pro-bono legal counsel for my asylum process, immigrant resources and services. fD recommended me for several artist residency programs and arranged talks at cultural institutions, universities and arts organizations to share my experiences and through my artwork raise awareness about the situation of freedom of expression and democracy in my home country. These opportunities to engage with people, to tell my story, is how I got back the energy and confidence I needed to keep doing what I had been doing before and deal with the new challenges I was faced with.

Through fD I have made many new friends, who like me were forced to leave their countries because of their art and activities defending human rights and freedom of expression. Having a community of like-minded individuals with similar experiences, who could learn from each other to keep moving forward, made me feel like I was not alone.

These days, when artists, journalists and cultural workers who fight for social justice face great risks and personal danger, organizations like fD that protect and support vulnerable individuals are of crucial importance to defending freedom of expression around the world.

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Artists often use their creative practice to voice the concerns of their communities and challenge injustice, but in return they may be harassed, attacked, exiled, imprisoned, tortured or worse…fD defends these essential voices but to do so we need your financial support today.

Since 2006, fD has worked with nearly 200 culture workers at risk, from over 35 countries, by brokering safe haven in artists residencies and developing tools for partners across sectors to help assess and support artists in danger. Right now we need your support for:

– One-to-One case management for artists, culture workers and communicators in need of critical personal and professional support.

– Design and translation of our DIY guidebook for individuals at risk – Creative Safe Haven Advo-kit – into the languages of territories where culture workers are most in need.

– Development of 5 ‘regional safety networks’ around the world to provide immediate and accessible response when individuals are in situations of dangers.

Your contribution will make a real difference in the lives of artists, culture workers and communicators who find themselves at risk, around the world.


the fD Team

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Donate today! – click here to make your donation online or send a check payable to freeDimensional to P.O. Box 301, New York, NY 10276


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