‘I Have Retrieved My Dream’

‘I Have Retrieved My Dream’

Publication info

Ethar Soliman, CARE Egypt

KL* is a 17-year-old Syrian adolescent who moved to Cairo after the war began in Syria. Like most Syrians who were forced to leave their homes under such circumstances, he remembers the exact date he left: Nov. 13, 2012. He was only 14. 

His father stayed behind, so KL had to become the family breadwinner. He took whatever jobs he could find –in parking lots,supermarkets, hairstyling salons. “I had to work,” he said. “Some days I returned home with only 2 pounds (25 cents). It was all I could get.”

In 2015, his mother saw an announcement on Facebook seeking volunteers for an “interactive theater” run by CARE. “Though I was not sure what this training was about, I gave myself a chance to have something new,” KL said. 

The innovative project was part of CARE’s holistic approach to addressing sexual and gender based-violence among the refugees, mostly Syrian, who are living in greater Cairo. Interactive theater was introduced in 2014 and quickly proved effective especially with young people. By presenting critical and sensitive social problems such as domestic violence and early marriage in the public sphere, communities are more able and willing to make connections with their daily lives and open up for dialogue. 

At first, KL felt uncomfortable in the group, like he didn’t really belong. But by the third session, that feeling had changed dramatically. “The spirit I felt in the group brought back the same feeling I used to have with my friends back in Syria,” the young man said. 

In the first stage of training, the facilitator asked the participants to share their feelings and memories, which brought up many hurtful and disturbing images in KL’s mind. He began to uncover memories of a sexual harassment incident he faced when he was only 8, when a man took him to a hidden place and forced him at knifepoint to take off his clothes. KL said the perpetrator threatened to kill him if he ever told anybody about what happened, so he had kept silent for years. 

In addition to that trauma, KL also remembered seeing two of his close friends killed in front of his eyes in Syria. “I became accustomed to scenes of blood and murder,” KL recalled. “I needed help!”

Since he became involved in interactive theater and acting onstage, KL’s character has completely changed. He has become more optimistic about the future. His smile began to appear for the first time since he came to Egypt. He has found new friends, and his true talents have surfaced. Moreover, he has become a crusader for the cause of combating sexual and gender-based violence. 

“I became more close to problems that Syrians face, and I feel I have a role in changing my community,” he said. 

KL credits the interactive theater training with helping him overcome his inner pain from the awful incidents he faced early in his life. As a bonus, KL has discovered he has great talents for acting and performing. All of his scenes onstage are met with loud applause from the audience. “I have retrieved my dreams and I have a role model in our theater trainer,” KL said. The young man has become a co-trainer for a new theater group for women in the same project. Moreover, he was recruited as a theater trainer in a local Syrian NGO working in Egypt. 

KL’s dreams are coming true. 

*KL requested that his full name not be used, because of the sensitivity of the incident he endured.