LAOU: What If I was you and you were me and we could talk about and listen to things that hurt us without hurting each other? Art Transforms Conflict creates strategic arts-based programs for refugee and host communities in Lebanon seeking to develop sustainable communication and conflict management skills. Through training in creative communication, we empower vulnerable youth so often left behind in peace-building with the tools necessary to address the social and cultural drivers of conflict.
In one LAOU session, children were asked what they want to become. One 7 year-old girl said "this is difficult for me because I don't know if I will grow up." Roughly 700,000 Syrian youth reside in Lebanon, dislocated from the future they imagined. Overwhelmed communities demand programs that encourage social stability, conflict transformation and cultural tolerance. ATC believes youth can be a force for peace and positive change but first they need to address the conflict within themselves.
ATC uses strategic arts-based methods to transform conflict. LAOU ("What if?" in Arabic) is an interactive dramatic presentation through which members of refugee and host communities engage in guided dialogue on difficult topics, including: women's financial empowerment, child labor, gender-based violence and stereotypes. Successfully piloted in 2015, LAOU creates a safe space for conversation, guiding participants towards mutual tolerance and respect through an understanding of the 'other'.
During the pilot, one young man came up to us and said "Please come back - we needed what you gave us!" Now through a three-month LAOU series, ATC will help 1,000 youth in Lebanon become tomorrow's change-makers by fostering a self-sustaining culture of positive engagement and dialogue. All participants will develop conflict management and creative communication skills that are rooted in their own cultural identities - capabilities that can then be passed on to others in their communities.