Twelve- year-old Yazen, his brother and mother fled to Lebanon to escape the terror of the Syrian war. Yazen is the main breadwinner for the family, taking to the dangerous streets of Aramoun to sell tissues in order to make a little income; "My mother and my brother rely on me to bring money. Nobody helps us".
Lebanon's streets are a dangerous place for children to be, exposing them to dangers including abuse, exploitation, and accidents. It was on the streets that Yazen was hit by a car, damaging his neck and sustaining bad bruising. This, along with his harrowing experiences in Syria left Yazen's introvert and scared.
One day, while selling tissues, Yazen met a volunteer from the Intersos organization who invited him to take part in the "Theatre for Development" sessions being held by Right To Play. The programme uses improvisation exercises , drawing, drama and creative writing to help the children reinforce their self-esteem and confidence, build empathy, encourage them to deal with personal conflicts, develop social skills, encourage personal expression, and imagination and build their communications skills.
At first, Yazen was daunted and uncomfortable taking part in the session. He felt like a complete outsider: "I am not smart enough. I don't know how to read and write. I wish to could go to school like others". Happily the more sessions Yazen took part in, the more he began to enjoy the games and theatre exercises. Through rhythm and special awareness exercises and story building, Yazen's confidence blossomed, ultimately leading his peers onto the stage for performances.
Yazen's mother was reluctant to let him take part in the project initially. She worried that it would prevent Yazen working and bringing home the money they were so reliant on. She changed her mind as she noticed her son's confidence grow and the hugely positive impact on his well-being the programme had. Salan Blaibel, Yazen's Right To Play coach says, "Yazen feels at home now and has built friendships with the other children"