#MeWeSyria is promoting healing and community building through storytelling innovation - led by Syrian refugees
After eight years of war, more than half of Syria's population has been forced to flee their homes and over 5.6 million people have fled to neighbouring countries including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. More than 6 million people have been displaced inside Syria.
While most live in extreme poverty and navigate a world of constant disruption, Syrian youth, a large number of them women and girls living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are sharpening their communications skills in an effort to improve psychological well-being. They are also enhancing their leadership skills and challenging stereotypes in order to realize peace and access educational opportunities, with the assistance of #MeWeSyria, an innovative storytelling program developed by non-profit organisation #MeWe International Inc..
As one young Syrian woman from the #MeWeSyria program says, with reference to the way humanitarian agencies and the media portray refugees, "They view us as refugees and as individuals that only need help whether it's food or money... How can we support refugee women to be leaders and initiators of peace?"
"A large portion of the challenges we face is about stereotypes, about the restrictions imposed upon us, about the thinking prevalent in our society... I want to assert to the world that they should know that any Syrian woman in this world also has ambitions, capabilities," adds another Syrian woman from the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where #MeWe International launched #MeWeSyria more than 5 years ago.
Supporting healing and leadership development
#MeWeSyria works both as an innovative communications methodology and a series of trainings that activate a network and community of practice, where refugees lead their own #MeWeSyria hubs.
The experiential methodology targets both psychological well-being and leadership opportunities in several ways, namely: self-awareness, perspective-taking, and goal setting.
#MeWeIntl utilises a Training of Trainers model, customised to local needs and realities. The specialised trainings support the development of a Community of Practice that then collaborates with #MeWeIntl to innovate, localise, and scale their own versions of #MeWeIntl, using tools and resources designed and facilitated by #MeWeIntl. Facilitators then lead their own weekly #MeWeIntl hubs, where participants are able to enhance their communications skills and participate in narrative and media activities (relating to self-awareness, writing, public speaking and video blogging), in an effort to improve self-awareness, perspective-taking, neuro-education, and positive goal-setting.
"For me, communications and storytelling... is a process of healing and empowerment," says #MeWe International Founder Mohsin Mohi Ud Din, during a recent TEDx Talk.
The #MeWeSyria methodology is based on the principle that the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves shapes how we treat ourselves and the world around us. If you reframe how you communicate internally with yourself, you may be able to improve your psychological wellbeing and leadership capabilities at home, in school, and in your community.
Improving tools, training model and impact
The Education in Emergencies Challenge and support from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) successfully improved #MeWe International tools, the training model, and local impacts.
Over five months during the Challenge, Syrian refugee youth facilitators successfully mobilized youth in their own communities and activated 25 new #MeWeSyria hubs between September 2018 and January 2019, reaching more than 338 participants.
From March to December, #MeWe International successfully built a new curriculum, a new pre and post assessment tool, and piloted a new training model to improve quality and sustainability, in line with the needs of its refugee networks in both Turkey and Lebanon.
“As a result of DFAT support our refugee network is stronger, and the impacts at the local level are deeper, particularly when it comes to improving the communications and leadership skills of Syrian refugee youth, and opening spaces for psychological wellbeing at the local level,” says Mohi Ud Din.
#MeWeSyria participants in Turkey shared how they benefited from the program in 2018:
• “MeWe broke the hopelessness. It helped with building hope. When we talk, we feel relief. When we have sadness, and hopelessness, later those things become more positive.”
• “I was lonely and not open to anyone. After MeWe, I found a better way to solve problems by speaking and expressing myself.”
• “I [had] fear in my heart. After MeWe sessions, my heart felt relief.”
• “I built better relationships with my friends and can communicate better with my family.”
• “I learned about respecting different perspectives.”
• “I am able to empathize.”
• “Before, I was not confident. Now I am able to trust others more. Now I can express my ideas more freely.”
• “I now have answers to questions in my life.”
As the program continues to improve Syrian youth facilitators' knowledge and skills in mental health, psychosocial support, and storytelling, #MeWeSyria remains a constant in an ever-changing environment for hundreds of Syrian youth and their families.
#MeWeSyria, a program of #MeWe International Inc. was one of seven winners of the MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Australia) Education in Emergencies Challenge, which called for new ideas to improve access to education for children in emergency situations, particularly girls. The challenge was delivered with Australian Aid. Winners were announced in December 2017.
Follow #MeWe International Inc.: @meweintl, @mewesyria, and www.meweintl.org.