Photostory: Syrian communities come together for fun, creative expression and social changePublished: Nov 15, 2021 Reading time: 4 minutes
Across northern Syria, People in Need is supporting social cohesion activities for all ages, backgrounds and abilities. From football matches and street art events to focus group discussions and children’s theatre, these events offer people a chance to leave the ongoing war outside for a moment and come together in unity.
Join us at a humble community theatre in a small village in northern Syria for an evening of entertainment and creative expression; the opening night of a short play focused on comradery and inclusion of those with special needs.
Dressed in every color of the rainbow, hair neat and show-ready, children warm up outside in the garden of the village’s cultural centre before their opening night debut. They’ve been rehearsing this three-act play for weeks – excitement trumps anxiety as the play director leads the stretches of the body and nerves, making silly faces and encouraging the children to let loose.
Meanwhile, siblings, parents and grandparents trickle into the quaint theatre, a part of a larger cultural centre. One by one they take their seats, whispering softly between their face masks.
The lights dim above the weathered maroon seats in the audience and the children take their places backstage. Muffled laughter and the clunking of movement unseen break through the anticipation felt among the crowd. The show is about to begin.
Ali, 65, enters the stage and welcomes the crowd. He has been managing the cultural centre since 2012. “We are teaching the children about our rich history so they lead this heritage to the coming generation,” said Ali. The centre commonly uses the arts such as theatre, music, and storytelling to instill a sense of pride and togetherness in the community.
The children enter the stage in pairs, matching by color, and take their seats in a scene that mimics a classroom. A teacher stands on stage right in front of a white board and a music lesson begins. Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do! the teacher sings. The students raise their hands in unison pleading with their eyes and frantic waves of the arm for the teacher to choose them to repeat the melody. Each student gets chosen in turn except for one – a young girl in a wheel chair.
“This is the first time I come to the culture centre,” said Amsha, 28, audience member and sister of one of the actors. “I liked the message of the play that children should help each other despite the differences. It is an important message because it says that no child should be left without help, especially children with especial needs.” Amsha spoke of her appreciation of the centre for the community and the power the arts has. “Especially music,” she said, “because it is an international language that brings people together and dissolves all the differences between them.”
Asmha’s sister, Hend, 13 (center, in red) loved taking part in this play because it allowed her to meet new children her age and forge new friendships. Moreover, this play and the cultural center at large present an opportunity for the children to express themselves creatively. “I like acting,” said Hend, “I want to be an actress in the future.”
“The children learn useful things from these artistic activities and it helps to refine their personality,” said Asmah.
The play continued on, each scene representing different symbolic scenarios that challenged the way we all might act ourselves in real life. Would you invite this young girl in a wheelchair to play with you? Would you stand up for her if you saw her being bullied? In the end, the star of the show addressed the crowd with a monologue, every color of the rainbow lined up at each of her side. The final message was simple: “People, especially children, should be friends, despite any differences between them,” said Hend.
The lights came on and the crowd thundered with clapping. Families mingled around refreshments and took pictures with their little actors. The PIN team distributed brand new backpacks to the children as a token of the evening.
Thanks to the European Union for fostering these social cohesion event and providing these new school materials with the generous funds.