Children practice photo framing
Children practice photo framing. Mangueirinha, 2015. Sarah Garrahan.
The J. Kirk Felsman Program on Children in Adversity, launched at the Sanford School of Public Policy, merges documentary and policy disciplines to better serve and advocate for vulnerable children globally.

The Felsman Fellowship Program provides outstanding graduates of Duke professional and graduate schools and the Duke Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program (MFAEDA) a one-year Fellowship to explore and develop unique and dynamic approaches to reaching and caring for vulnerable children and youth through direct programming and documentary methodologies. The Fellowship culminates in an opportunity to showcase the Fellows work in Washington D.C. and beyond to raise awareness and advocate for vulnerable children and youth.

Za'atari Refugee Camp
Dawn. Za'atari Refugee Camp, 2014. Taken by Khaldiya.
The Program has successfully placed two cohorts of Fellows since its inception in September 2013. In 2014, four Fellows worked on the Syrian borders in Jordan and Turkey supporting formal and non-formal education efforts for Syrian refugee girls. An additional four Fellows worked in Peru and Brazil in 2014 and 2015 serving and documenting the plight of street children. The Program hosted a successful Policy and Advocacy reception on the Syrian refugee crisis in October 2014 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Many U.S. government policy-makers were able to attend the session, including USAID high-level representatives, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for refugee affairs, think-tank leaders, internationally-recognized child protection advocates, and international non-governmental organizations.

The Fellows' work has been published for local audiences in Turkey, Jordan and Durham, as well as, internationally through the Huffington Post, Telegraph and Marie Claire magazine.
Community photography exhibition
Community photography exhibition. Morro do Sapo, 2015. Sarah Garrahan.
The Felsman Fellowships are the flagship initiative of the new J. Kirk Felsman Program on Children in Adversity at Duke University. The Fellowships are a post-masters professional opportunity in social entrepreneurship offered to outstanding graduates of the Duke Master of Public Policy program and the Duke Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program. Fellows spend up to ten months in the field working with a humanitarian organization followed by an- intensive and creative mentorship through the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke where they leverage their field experience to produce their final research and documentary projects.

Each Fellowship culminates in an opportunity to showcase research and documentary work in Washington D.C. and beyond. The program also creates a strong social media presence around the Fellows' work to raise awareness and advocate for innovative global policy on issues affecting vulnerable children and youth.

"Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
-- Nelson Mandela
Felsman Fellows are post-masters level professionals matched with organizations committed to the care and protection of vulnerable children and youth. The goal of the Felsman Fellowship program is to pair documentary and public policy Fellows to work with the same non-profit organization around programming and policy issues, combining humanistic, participatory and scholarly research with visual storytelling to reach the widest possible audience.

Nuestra Comunidad
Nuestra Comunidad. 12 de Junio, Lima, Peru. 2015. Taken by Yessica.
The purpose of this unique approach to outreach and advocacy is to:
  • Inspire the next generation of innovative leaders and social entrepreneurs in the field of child protection and provide much needed and low-cost technical support to field-based programming for vulnerable children and youth

  • Empower children and youth to tell their stories and therefore meaningfully participate in and influence the policies and programming affecting their lives

  • Advocate for innovative global public policy for vulnerable children and youth by raising public awareness of issues affecting children and youth living in adverse conditions

Kirk Felsman
The creation of the Felsman Fellowship program is inspired by the work of Dr. Kirk Felsman, who founded the Duke University Hart Fellowship program and, with Alex Harris, co-founded the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program at the Center for Documentary Studies. Dr. Kirk Felsman was a clinical psychologist, a Duke Professor, a Fulbright Research Scholar, a Lyndhurst Prize recipient and a Global Health Fellow at USAID. For over 30 years he worked tirelessly with street children, child soldiers, refugees, immigrants, and children affected by HIV-AIDS, wars and natural disasters. Kirk’s expertise was so valued by USAID that he was placed in Southern Africa to lead efforts on the care of children affected by HIV/AIDS until his sudden death in May 2011.

"The child-centered approach Kirk advocated so passionately [for] was based on a deep-seated respect for and appreciation of each and every human’s individual essence and voice, demonstrated time and again through his work and his personal actions."
-- Janet Reilly