By Andy Lohman

We can all help and contribute in little ways.

Former VCU Men’s Soccer player Jake van Yahres, formerly an art director for advertising agency Argonaut in San Francisco and now founder of his own venture, JVY Creations, sees his contributions coming through art and imagination. His new project, Face Terror Together, looks to flip the script on how social media is used around terrorist attacks.

“I always got frustrated because terrorists were able to use Facebook and all these social media channels as really divisive tools. That’s the opposite of what Facebook was created for,” van Yahres said. “As an advertiser, our job is to be good at messaging. I always felt that there’s something that I should do to flip the message back around. If terrorists want to use social media to divide us, what if there was a really cool way to use it to unite us again?”

Face Terror Together (faceterrortogether.com) is designed to be a way for users across the globe to show unity with each other in roughly 30 seconds and about five clicks.

Once the project launches on Sept. 11, 2017, users will visit faceterrortogether.com and log in with their Facebook account. The software recognizes who the user is and what country they’re from, then a camera will appear on the screen for the user to take a picture of themselves with guides for alignment. 

After the user accepts the photo, the right side will fade out and the face of another user from around the world will fade in, aligning both faces with the message that the two have untied to face terror together at the top (i.e. “Mike Rhoades and Beth O’Boyle have united to face terror together”). From there, the user can direct message the person they have united with and share to any social media platform.

“I thought what’s the easiest thing and the thing people like doing the most on social media? Taking pictures of themselves,” van Yahres laughs. “If you take a picture of yourself it’s a selfie. What if that could be the most selfless selfie? That’s where the idea started.”

The project looks to fight terrorism in two different ways. Firstly, van Yahres hopes to raise donations for six organizations fighting terrorism around the world through links on the Face Terror Together website.

Secondly and more broadly, Face Terror Together looks to end the division and fear created by acts of terrorism by unifying people.

“I hope this is a tool that people literally all around the world use,” van Yahres said.

The idea is to render terrorist attacks useless by reversing the message they’re meant to send. Instead of dividing the world through hate, Face Terror Together wants to bring it together through love.

A unifying factor for van Yahes through the process has been the sport of soccer: every person working on the project is a soccer player. Alan Koger, the lead developer, played collegiately at William & Mary, and briefly for Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution. Van Yahres played for VCU from 2008-10.

“It’s by coincidence, but it’s cool that soccer has been able to really help with this project because the project is all about unity and soccer is the world’s sport,” van Yahres said.

Joseph Haboush, the friend that van Yahres used as an example of what the final product of Face Terror Together will look like in a video on the website, was his teammate at VCU. After playing for the Rams from 2008-11, Haboush played for local United Soccer League side Richmond Kickers, Lebanese team Al-Safa and the Lebanese national team. He is currently a reporter for The Daily Star, an English-language newspaper in Lebanon.

“We hadn’t talked in, I don’t know, four or five years. So this project has already united us together, which is kind of cool. So now hopefully tons of other people do the same,” van Yahres said. 

Van Yahres has the perfect background for a project like this, growing up with a soccer ball in one hand and a colored pencil in the other.

“My background is in art. I grew up doing art all the time. It was art and soccer,” van Yahres said.

He also had a grandfather, Mitchell, serve as the mayor of Charlottesville from 1970-72 and in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1981-2005.

“He fought a lot for social equality. I’ve just always felt a need to do stuff like this, I don’t know if that’s his influence on me. He had a kind of pedestal in the government with his voice,” van Yahres said. “My strength is through art and those kinds of tools and I’ve always felt that they can comingle with each other.”

Everything about the project is meant to reverse the message and goals of terrorism. You can even see it in the details of the logo. Two hands reaching out to each other reverse the gunfire imagery of a scope. The fonts of “face” and “together” are strong and bold, while the font of “terror” has a whimsical feel. The colors throughout are vibrant and bright.

Taking on a massive global threat like terrorism may be a huge undertaking, but van Yahres believes in small contributions making big impacts. Face Terror Together is simple and easy, but behind the skills and passion of Jake van Yahres, has the potential to change the world.

 “There’s so many things that we can do to help and contribute to [solve] problems in the world,” van Yahres said. “It doesn’t always have to be through money. It doesn’t always have to be going out to rallies. Those are great, and I encourage that, but there’s always something else. There’s always another solution to a problem.” 

A native of Charlottesville, Va., Jake van Yahres is also helping the city heal after clashes of violence around white nationalist protests in the city earlier this month. Cville Love shirts that he designed are on sale at teespring.com/stores/jvy-creations. Fifty percent of the procees will go to Heal Charlottesville and the Legal Aid Justice Center.