Art and culture are indispensable for building a society. Therefore, Action for Hope provides art and culture activities in Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Morocco and Iraq. Action for Hope provides a safe environment in which the local population and refugees meet, where people can dream together and where talented young people are trained to be a filmmaker or musician. They work with artists who have partly fled themselves. Sara Zein, program manager at Action for Hope, tells us about their work.
In 2015, Action for Hope started to provide cultural development and cultural relief programs in Lebanon that meet the social, cultural and psychological needs of distressed and displaced communities. They believe in the role of art and culture in empowering people, individuals and communities. Especially, for people who live in distress. Sara explains: “So we work with communities that don’t have access to art and culture. Because of course there are people with talents, but they are not always able to develop it and do something with it. We give them the opportunity to develop their talent.” By doing so, they help individuals to express themselves and enrich the cultural scene in the entire country.
On the website of Action for Hope, you find several stories of change. For example of Ayham Attihey: “After I joined Action for Hope Film School and graduated from the program, I was filled with motivation to earn a formal certificate and study at a university. (…) Even though art has been a passion of mine since I was in Syria, the society frowns upon the idea of art as a livelihood. Action for Hope and moving to Lebanon emboldened me to take a step that many people in my environment would see as a daring move.”
Action for Hope organises a lot of projects. These are based on education and are distributed among three main axes; ‘Community-Based Cultural Interventions’, ‘New artist, New voices’ and ‘Networking, Dialogue, and Research’. They give, for example, music, film and theatre lessons. But they also have programs based on society and on their point of view on art and their access to it. Action for Hope organises events such as a film screening, concert or artistic festival that are open to the public.
The programs are not held in the camps. Sara: “There is not enough space. But we do help refugees with transportation to and from the activities.” The only thing they do in the camps is a cultural relief convoy. “We go to the area and do several artistic trainings for two weeks. After that, the participants give a presentation.” Later, they run programs to nurture talents that are plentiful in the community. “For example: in Jordan, we noticed there are a lot of musical talents. So we established a music school there.”
Sara is most proud of the rapid success that their work achieved. “In the communities in which we work, they used to think of art as a luxury that wasn’t a priority under difficult circumstances. But now parents of old students bring their other children to join our programs. And they now ask us to organize more concerts and cultural events. It is this positive change and impact we made in just five years that I’m proud of.”
The DOEN Foundation is one of the partners that supported Action for Hope from the beginning.
“DOEN is one of the partners who supported us for many years, helping us to continue and ensure the sustainability of our work. The general support we received from DOEN also gave us this margin of freedom to move and reallocate expenses according to the circumstances.”
During corona they found a way to adjust their programs. “We wanted to still achieve the goals we set and be relevant in this situation. We created new programs and initiatives to respond to the crisis.”
Action for Hope aspires for their programs to serve as a model for others to follow, so that they can implement it in other communities that are going through difficult circumstances. “That’s why we document all the materials and curriculums as well as launching it on social media platforms as open sources.”
The DOEN Foundation supports Action for Hope through the programme ‘Culture & Media International’.