“A reborn Wafaa”
I am from Darayya, a suburb of Damascus. I arrived in Lebanon in 2014. When I first arrived, I worked as an assistant at a dentistry clinic. I had this ambition to major in laboratory medicine once I return to my country. However, something changed within me after I had spent some time working as a volunteer with the Action for Hope literacy program, during which I also took part in a number of workshops for different interests such as journalistic writing and dollmaking. My life went into a completely different direction. I discovered those new fields that weren’t exactly popular in my environment back in Syria. I managed to earn a partial scholarship from the Action for Hope program to study graphic design at the Lebanese International University, after which I joined the theatre workshops at the program. Those theatre workshops have imbued me with more strength. The theatre served as a safe space for me in which I learned to express myself, which, I’ve come to realize, is very important. We performed The Elephant, King of All Times (Saadallah Wannous) at the Saint Joseph University, directed by Chrystel Khodr. Subsequently, we went on a year-long tour that spanned Saida, Sour, Tripoli, and the Bekaa. The play was well-received by everyone who attended it. People would come and ask if I had any plans for a second part of the performance.
After my theatre experience, I got accepted into film school. It was not exactly a field in which I thought I would be able to do anything worthwhile. After all, I didn’t know the first thing about cinema and would often ask myself, “what am I doing here?” Nothing went my way, and I used to see myself as a failure. Yet, my teachers were impressed by how much I improved in my first year. Some subjects that I’ve grown quite fond of were editing, film direction, and screenwriting. I had stumbled upon a new avenue to share my thoughts and express my issues. I got to speak about things that have meaning to me, which was such a big motivation for me since I was a shy and introverted person. I’ve felt through the medium of the cinema that I found my footing within society.At school, we would often discuss movies when we sit together or in classes. Our relationship with the school and its staff wasn’t strictly an academic one, insofar as we were there to finish our graduation project and part ways. It was, in fact, a much more profound one than merely technical lessons and assignments towards getting our degrees. I remember when I told my colleagues about my graduation project, and this is a true story by the way: I, a 17-year-old, was sitting with my sister Zahra on the rooftop. There was a sniper standing at a far point that oversees all the rooftops. The sniper fired the first shot and it hit the balusters on the stairway. Naturally, Zahra and I started running. The second shot hit a pigeon instead of us. We discussed the story that I proposed as a premise for my film. They shared my pain as if we were one family.
My creative sensibilities were rejuvenated when I joined the cinema school. Something that helped me quite a bit with my graphic design studies. It wasn’t simply a technical major, and I’ve developed my ability, through the classes I took, to harness my creativity and imagination.
I worked as an assistant director on most of my friends’ project as I was studying, and I certainly helped with all the movies. I was a very competent person in terms of logistics and time-management. I was in charge of the run-down, on the used equipment after the shooting ends with the trainer. When we finished shooting our films, I temporarily replaced the post of one of the Action for Hope employees, before I was permanently appointed as the coordinator for the Film school. I work eight hours every day. I coordinate with the students and teachers and take care of the equipment. Working overtime was never a problem for me. If one of the students had a filming sessions schedule and I didn’t go with them, I would feel something was missing. I’d rather stay with them even if it lasted until 2:00 A.M. I am writing these words and every minute, my gaze turns to the outside, where students are shooting film.
Ever since I joined the Action for Hope programs, my sensibilities have changed completely. I am not a reborn Wafaa.
The trivial and superficial things that interested girls at my age don’t concern me anymore. I learned to think for myself, how I can develop, and what I can add to myself. I am now capable of defending myself, as well as a large number of girls who are living in this male-dominated society. No one can violate my rights anymore.
Author: Wafaa Dahous
Story collected and compiled by: Mona Merhi
Date and place: May 19, 2019, Action for Hope School – Bar Elias