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Using theatre to empower refugees

More than a mentoring scheme, the Refugee Journalism Project primarily aims to place and offer job opportunities and experience to exiled journalists in the UK. Fardous Bahbouh, a participant talks about a recent project she has been involved in through the RJF.

by Fardous Bahbouh

As a linguist, I believe learning languages is a key to building bridges between countries and cultures. Furthermore, for refugees and migrants in the UK, it is essential to learn English to be able to succeed and establish their lives.
I have been travelling by myself for years and I have experienced first-hand the challenges and difficulties of adapting in new countries. Moving from Syria to the US and the UK , I have experienced cultural shocks and also learnt to cope with homesickness.

I remember when I first arrived to my college campus in the United States in 2004, international students received a whole week of induction and training to learn about life in the US, the cultural differences and cultural shock we might come across.
However, refugees do not have the opportunity for such training – and neither do their host communities. And that is why I feel a genuine desire to help and share my expertise in cross-cultural communications. I am also a refugee myself. I came to the UK to complete a Master course, but because of the Syrian war, I was never able to return.

Fardous Bahbouh and participants from ‘Realising hopes and dreams’

Since January 2018, I have been coordinating the project ‘Realising Hope and Dreams’ and leading drama workshops for migrant and refugee women to help them learn English and develop further their leadership skills. ‘Realising Hope and Dreams’ is a project by Scheherazade Initiatives in partnership with our grassroots initiative Ahlah Wa Sahlan Welcome and funded by the National Lottery Fund.

The programme is designed to empower participants and enable them to take control of rebuilding their lives in London. It uses creative theatre activities and character work to help the participants practice their English and discuss aspects of their life in the UK through the character they create.

Through the RFJ, BBC Five Live contacted me to produce a podcast report. They had a series of special reports aiming at bringing reports from journalists from more diverse backgrounds.

Working with BBC Five Live was a brilliant experience. I was happy to tell the stories of these exceptional women and convey their experience of learning English, help them finding their voices and learning drama to tell their own stories themselves.

Together the participants created and performed the play “Lina”. It tells the story of a Syrian new comer to London. They performed it as forum theatre and the audience was invited to reflect and participate. In honour to the Refugee Week, the participants held a second performance on the 21st of June 2018 at the Migration Museum.

BBC Five Live report Fardous Bahbouh

Originally from Syria, Fardous Bahbouh came to the UK to study is a multilingual journalist, voice-over artist, teacher, and an Oscar-winner documentary translator. She took part in the Refugee Journalism Project and since then has been involved in a variety of projects. She is also the founding director of Lingua Media Connect LTD, providing professional Arabic and English translation, and media services.