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    Saturday, February 10, 2018

    Art of Humanity: From rock bottom to the top

    Members of Art of Humanity Initiative 
    By Nour Jarrouj

    Ever since I was a little girl, I always loved helping others, giving them ideas for their plans, helping them out through their problems; this has always given me a kind of self-satisfaction and happiness. Therefore, when I started getting older, about 16, 17 years-old, I started volunteering with national projects and programs. It was a joyful, knowledgeable and an amazing experience that helped shape the woman I am today.

    The volunteering fields were all about youth empowerment and disabled empowerment until the war started in my home country, Syria.

    Most voluntary work was focusing on basic needs, health, food, shelters, education, and new kinds of voluntary work -which we never really had before- which were psychological support and helping the martyrs’ families.

    The civil community had gone mad and emergency response projects were everywhere. Most volunteers used them as a way to get some cash, not humanitarian perspective and the credibility of true voluntary work was gone for me. I just lost faith in people...

    The experience and the cause
    In 2014, I was still volunteering for NGOs and local initiatives. I had worked with traumatized children, food aid distribution, health and hygiene kits distribution for internally displaced people, and helped in churches and community centers. Afterwards, I switched from emergency response projects to civil community development, women empowerment and youth voluntary projects. Many people asked me why and they started accusing me of leaving the people in need alone, but for me it was a bigger goal, a bigger change and a better impact.

    There were a lot of volunteers to help in the implementation of these projects and who could help the vulnerable people directly and instantly, but I saw where this was going; yes, we were helping them, but only for a short while. The war was still raging on, people were fighting more and more, hatred started to get into their hearts, so they became careless towards each other. I started thinking to myself, how can I help glue back my collapsing community, my shattered society and myself?

    The Idea, The Challenges, The Support
    In March 2015, I was invited to participate in a peacebuilding workshop for influential civil activists in Syria. We were from different backgrounds, religions, had different political views, but we had one thing in common, which was to re-build ourselves and our society. That’s when Art of Humanity slapped me awake. Why don’t we start an artistic team for youth to join together, talk and work for peace, and have fun together?

    Well, the idea wasn’t really useful for other participants; most of them were choosing children and women initiatives, since they are essential. Barely none of them supported my idea, “huh art you say, Yeah let’s fight war with colors. People are dying and you think a music concert can solve it all”
    “Why not? Seriously, why not? Who doesn’t like art? Any kind of art, music, theatre, painting, graphics…? And have you ever seen an artist killing a human being? It’s a way to avoid violence, empty your stress, express yourself and we can make it a major stage for spreading peace and a small paid project for the unemployed so they wouldn’t grab a gun, fight and kill to live.”

    Nodding, question marks had dominated the meeting, “grab a paper and a pen and join me, whoever believes in this”.

    Few minutes later, a couple of guys came to me and we started talking, sharing ideas, planning, budgeting, and something great was about to happen.

    After the workshop ended, we kept on meeting and started calling other young people who we knew are interested and can be a real asset to our team, such as artists, team leaders and PR professionals. We were short of money, place, advocacy but we had faith in our cause and each other. Afterwards, we contacted a famous artist to help us and he got us a place to meet and work in. Then, we applied for financial support and got a small amount of money as a kick start to get by. And that’s when the magic happened.

    Art is peace, for us at least: Our achievements
    Our first event was for an introduction purpose, a musical concert for 20 young artists who were so different and various in a critical way, but they all loved art and aimed for peace.

    We worked for 40 days, 10 hours a day to prepare the event, find a place, and media advocacy. Thanks to the graphic designers in the team, we didn’t have to pay a penny. Flyers and visual identity was paid with love and belief only.

    The second event was an exhibition called “different” to accept each other’s’ different views, religions, and mindsets.

    We made attendees pay in pieces of clothing to get in, collected them and took them to a children’s shelter for Christmas.

    Our volunteers had shocked me with their innovation and harmony. New music style was there, new painting and graphic styles were there, a lot of contrast between our professional artists’ artworks and the amateurs’ ones, but that was the point: to teach and assist each other, to love each other, to become a family.

    Our third project was the bomb: a four days event, “Damascus Para-world” when we pictured our country in a parallel universe where there is no war and we all live in harmony. It was an exhibition, with war rebels recycling and a finishing musical concert.
    People were thrilled, they came there to share our peace and love vibes, to be part of becoming the youth we all want to be.

    The entrance money we collected was given to an orphanage “from the old youth to the youth yet to become”.

    Our fourth event was a bit different since it was in another governorate, Homs, which was way stricter than Damascus and it was so hard to gather different youth that it took us ten months to actually launch our team in Homs. We eventually managed and participated in a carnival, all thirty of us to spread Syrian art and peace.

    Our last event was part of international youth day sponsored by UNICEF “express your peace” when the Art of Humanity team took part in organizing and opened the event with the music band about peaceful concepts and love.

    Of course none of these would have happened if we didn’t fail once, twice and a 100 times, but the key is to believe and never give up. We now never look at each other or at other people the same way we did before, we never judge, we never repel or hate, but we embrace our differences. 

    We are now a big family, all 70 volunteers, and all the people we reached with our message either by presence or on social media “about 800,000”, we are all changed for the better; art, peace and ambition have brought us all together and we will not stop.

    About the Author 
    Nour Jarrouj, Media Relations Officer

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