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Art and tech combine in support of UNHCR’s Aiming Higher campaign to get more refugees into higher education

Augmented Reality specialists, Perception Codes join forces with artist Kanachai “Kit” Bencharongkul and the UNHCR to develop the first ever Holo-NFT collection in The Morpheus Project designed to raise funds for refugees in Thailand.

While much of the world’s attention may still be focused on the global pandemic, wars and conflicts continue to rage around the globe. Data shows that in 2020, more than 82 million people were displaced and forced to flee from their homes in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Bangladesh.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, the prospects for many children and young adults who become refugees are not good, with just 5% able to enrol in some form of higher education later in life.

As a result, the UNHCR has launched the Aiming Higher campaign – a project designed to help refugees build brighter futures through greater access to higher education and a bridging of the education gap.

Arunee Achakulwisut, Private Sector Partnership Officer for UNHCR Multi-Country Office in Thailand, says, “Currently there are 3.7 million child refugees who, without help, will never have access to higher education that could dramatically improve their career prospects. Aiming Higher will help to raise funds and develop vital partnerships with the private sector to help facilitate more than 1,800 scholarships in places like Thailand where refugees are living.”

She continues, “Education is incredibly important for refugees who have been forced to escape their countries in fear. Many refugees tell us that education helps them to gain back their sense of identity, their confidence and, of course, improve their chances of creating financially stable lives in the future.”

One of the fundraising efforts developed by the UNHCR for the Aiming Higher initiative involves Kit Bencharongkul, the photographer behind the “Love is Boundless” collection, and immersive AR specialists, Perception Codes. By creating a series of Holo-NFTs from Kit’s still images of refugees in Thai temporary shelters and making them available for purchase on The Morpheus Project marketplace, it is hoped that a substantial amount of money will be raised to support the Aiming Higher initiative.

Speaking on the application of his Love Is Boundless collection in Holo-NFT format, Kit says, “I think it’s not only a tool but a statement as well because NFTs represent the evolving, changing world and that these refugees’ stories can live on in digital form. I hope this campaign will not only raise money but also raise awareness of the lives of refugees, both in Thailand and beyond.”

Arunee adds, “It is important that we partner with individuals and companies that share our values and, in the case of Perception, bring something new and innovative to us that can help reach a different audience.”

“People in Thailand – particularly young people – are now really alert to NFTs and their potential for the future, so it was important for UNHCR to partner with an expert in this area. That is how we came to work with Perception.”

Perception CTO and Co-Founder, Dr Krisada Chaiyasarn, says, “This is a very interesting project for us to work on and one that we are honoured to be involved with. As a university lecturer and educator myself, an initiative like this designed to get more underprivileged people into higher education is very close to my heart.”

“The project was also interesting from a technical point of view. We are very used to scanning 3D objects, artefacts and buildings so that they can be converted into immersive, holographic images.  But in adapting Kit’s images we’ve generated what we refer to as 2.5D – a layering of pictures to create distance between the background and foreground.”

“The success of this project will, I think, encourage museums and galleries to look at their own 2D collections and think about how they can digitise their assets, make them valuable for fundraising efforts in the NFT space and build their presence in the metaverse.”

He continues, “We are also excited to say that following on from Aiming Higher we are already working on another fundraising project to further support UNHCR based around our Holo-Museum platform. We will be able to share more about this campaign in the coming weeks and months.”

You can learn more about the Aiming Higher campaign and explore the Love Is Boundless Holo-NFT collection in The Morpheus Project marketplace here.

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