Egyptian Delegation Leader, 2009
Seeds of Peace GATHER Fellow, 2020
Using art therapy to transform conflict.
How have you impacted your community?
I’m the founder of “Barah” an Arabic word meaning “vastness.” That is the goal of my work: to help people reach their own inner vastness where they are able to meet their true authentic self.
My project focuses on creating the safe space for self-exploration, self-awareness, and inner conflict transformation through using art modalities together with profound counselling and facilitation.
The focus of my work is mainly women, particularly refugees. Through arts I work with them to face their challenges and explore their preconceived self-image, cultural norms, and worldviews. This increases their consciousness of their inner world, and facilitate inner transformation.
I found passion in arts and mental health five years ago, a powerful discovery that led me to make a major career shift from working as a communications director in a multinational NGO to becoming an art therapy practitioner.
During my GATHER Fellowship, I plan to grow Barah into a sustainable social enterprise and increase its impact.
I am Egyptian and hold a master’s degree in Medical Chemistry. Since deciding to follow my passion, I’m on a never-ending learning journey in the world of arts and mental health.
What is the need you are trying to meet through your work?
Inner-conflict transformation is the core of my work and is the foundation of transforming wider conflicts. Ignorance and misunderstanding are the main reasons for many conflicts, and this could be even much more complicated if it is intra-personal. Eventually, these inner conflicts that people might not be even aware of could lead to interpersonal conflicts that grow to more and more vicious circles.
Self-awareness and consciousness awakening are the route to discover and understand oneself; being aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses, insecurities, flaws, and gifts is the way to the inner vastness and self-acceptance which tremendously affects interpersonal relations and conflict transformation.
Why do you do what you do?
I’ve been a traveler on the road of self discovery and self awareness for years. I’ve experienced how these discoveries helped me to meet my authentic self with acceptance and compassion, thus transforming my whole life.
As an artist and a counselor, I believe using art in this journey makes it more gentle, visual, beautiful, and thoughtful.
What is the biggest challenge or obstacle you must overcome to be successful in your work?
My biggest challenge can be divided in two categories: tangible and intangible.
The tangible goes for finance, as I’d love for my work to reach more marginalized communities, mainly women who cannot afford any mental health support. I usually consider social justice by offering some free spots, yet it is hard for my startup to include more and sustain my project at the same time.
The intangible part goes for the lack of awareness on the importance of mental health and emotional resilience. Mental health issues are still taboos that people want to avoid or deny. Also, the general perception of arts as elite or luxuries—these misconceptions are considered big obstacles in the way.
What is one thing about yourself that you want everyone to know?
The one thing that I want everyone to know is that arriving where I am right now was a long difficult journey, and the route was narrow and bumpy. This sculpted who I am; I embrace my pain and difficult experiences. I’m a companion on the road of a genuine life, and compassionate about human pain and power.
“Inner conflict transformation is the core of my work and is the foundation of transforming wider conflict.”