Meet The Guy Who Went From Producing 'The Bachelor' To Documenting Refugees
A lot of people end up in careers that make them miserable but stick around because they're comfortable and pay the bills. Andrew Kimmel, a 30-year-old from West Hollywood, is definitely familiar with this scenario.
It wasn't long ago he was a producer for the popular reality TV shows "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette." Kimmel realized he was lucky to have the job but also knew, deep down, it wasn't what he really wanted to do.
Today, Kimmel is no longer a reality TV producer and, instead, spends his time documenting the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. He's the creator of a project called "Stories of Syria," a living archive of true first-person interviews with Syrian refugees displaced from the ongoing war.
But his path toward this point wasn't always easy and required some bold and somewhat impulsive decisions.
In an interview with Elite Daily, Kimmel describes what led him to drop his career with one of the most popular reality TV series and start documenting the stories of Syrian refugees.
Meanwhile, there was an ongoing war in Syria, which was contributing to the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
There are currently around 60 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including around 20 million refugees. Nearly 5 million of these refugees are Syrian. They've been forced from their homeland by a war that's claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
It bothered Kimmel that a lot of international news sources were covering the situation, but it was hardly given any attention by the American media.
During a month-long hiatus from his job, he decided he wanted to go see what was happening firsthand. In December 2014, he traveled to Jordan, where one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees resides (approximately 655,217).
He would end up visiting Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan, which is run by the UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). At present, approximately 80,000 refugees live in Zaatari.
What Kimmel found in Jordan surprised him. He expected it to be difficult to get Syrians to talk about their experiences, but that was hardly the case.
The stories he heard are a large part of what inspired him to leave his job as a producer on "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" and pursue documenting the Syrian refugee crisis.
But it was the Paris attacks, and the anti-refugee sentiments that followed them, that really pushed him to make the project his main priority. He explains,
Kimmel wanted to tell the stories of Syrian refugees who resettled in the US to help change people's perspectives on this issue.
While finding refugees to speak to in Jordan wasn't too hard for Kimmel, it was an entirely different matter in the US.
Kimmel says many Syrian refugees in the US are afraid of being targeted because of the stigma surrounding refugees and are wary of appearing on camera. Correspondingly, he mentioned one woman he interviewed who recalled being thrown to the ground in a Walmart in Texas simply because of what she was wearing.
It's sad people who've escaped oppression and violence are facing such challenges in the supposed "greatest nation" on the planet.
This is precisely why projects like Kimmel's are so important.
In his words,
Kimmel wants people to see Syrian refugees are fleeing the same people the US is trying to fight: ISIS. He wishes more Americans realized the primary victims of jihadism are Muslims, and the huge number of Syrian refugees is emblematic of that fact.
These people aren't terrorists, they're running away from terror.
As Kimmel puts it,
Check out "Stories of Syria" on Facebook, and view one of the videos from the project below.
This is the worst refugee crisis of our era. It won't get better if we choose to ignore it.