Action for Hope reaches out with art to communities in crisis

Ati Metwaly , Thursday 27 Aug 2015

Beirut-based Action for Hope has announced its independence from the Culture Resource, its parent organisation since its 2013 inception. The current project involves working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Action for Hope
Syrian refugee children in Lebanon participate in a percussion lessons set by the Action for Hope (Photo: courtesy of Action for Hope)

Operating under the directorship of Egyptian cultural activist Basma El Husseiny, the new Beirut-based initiative Action for Hope aims to reach out to communities in crisis while using art as medium.

The Action of Hope was first launched under the umbrella of Al Mawred Al Thaqafy. In a statement released on 18 August, Action of Hope announced its independence from Mawred, becoming an association registered in Belgium and Lebanon.

"After a pilot phase that began in 2013 for a year where Action for Hope was one of Culture Resource’s programmes, the aim of this phase was to test the idea that art can play a main role in enabling marginalised communities during times of crisis and help them resolve their problems. This was followed by a transition period in 2014 in which the programme was gradually turning into an independent organisation with a separate administrative and organisational structure," the statement explains.

The Action for Hope's idea and operations are a brain child of Basma El-Husseiny, former director of Al Mawred Al Thaqafy (Culture Resource) in Egypt, and a woman who for many years has been working with the civil society providing them art as a tool for change and improvement of their socio-economic conditions.

The association aims at providing "communities that suffer from war, displacement, violent political turmoil, extreme poverty or difficult living conditions, with tools for free expression, knowledge, healing, creativity and communication," reads the official statement.

Action for Hope's board comprises of representatives of several nationalities and Egyptian cultural activist Basma El-Husseiny is the director.

Action for Hope provides a "cultural relief", to people suffering from "war, displacement, natural disasters, or extreme poverty."

Currently, Action for Hope focuses its operations on Syrian refugee communities in Lebanon, working in Qaa village and the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut.

"We opened music schools in those areas, teaching the young people and children singing and percussion skills," El-Husseiny tells Ahram Online, adding that future plans might include introduction of the ney or other easy instruments.

The school that functions on chosen days in the afternoons has Syrian teachers who travel to Lebanon from Europe, in addition to an artistic support team living inside Lebanon.

"Among the many values that Action for Hope can deliver to those communities, it develops skills that can be utilised by the students in the work market," El Husseiny explains, drawing comparisons to a similar venture which is Al Darb Al Ahmar Arts School in Egypt, which focuses on children from Cairo's underprivileged area.

With current focus on Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Action for Hope also considers reaching out to other communities in crisis, already laying plans for interventions in Jordan (under the UNICEF umbrella).

Though in its pilot phase, the Action for Hope initiative also touched on several economically underprivileged areas in Cairo. However, Egypt is not the target location at this stage.

"I hope one day we will be able to have a real impact in Egypt as well," El Husseiny concluded, explaining that the general challenging security and legal atmosphere in the country make it difficult for Action for Hope to operate.

In November 2014, The Culture Resource announced a suspension on its Egypt activities and stated that it would continue to operate on a regional level, with the aim of supporting young Arab artists and writers and their artistic freedom, and helping them present and promote their work within the region.

The Culture Resource did not provide clear reasons for this decision, but the announcement came at a time when a new NGO law was being drafted which civil groups said was designed to hamper groups that serve as rights watchdogs or spark criticism.

Recently however, Basma El-Husseiny openly referred to the new NGO draft law saying that "continuing operations in Egypt would have put all Mawred's staff at risk."

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