HDI 0.708; RANK 112/17

GDP/CAPITA ($) 1,207

November 2011

Theater and health education activities for the street children of Cairo

Novembre Early on the morning of October 27th, in an isolated area of greenness and calmness in the middle of Cairo, the silence quickly filled up with the voices, laughter and noise of children playing games. Accompanied by their social workers, around 70 Children in Street Situation (CSS) soon began to gather around the tables laid out in the garden.

At each table, children participated in an activity focusing on a specific health topic such as hygiene, nutrition, self-esteem, children’s rights, addiction or smoking. Using Information, Education and Communication (IEC) techniques such as games, the social workers focused on raising the children’s awareness of various health messages.

Ahmed, a 13-year old, was very enthusiastic about the event: “I liked it because I now know new things. I learned that smoking is harmful to health, that it can bring bad diseases like cancer”.

196 IEC sessions have been held involving 1218 children

This IEC event organized by the Medecins du Monde team in Cairo was the high point of several months of regular activities around IEC and health, in cooperation with six Egyptian NGOs working with CSS. From March to June 2011, a total of 196 IEC sessions have been held involving 1218 children. Social workers from local NGOs received training from the MdM IEC, Medical and Mental Health officers on how to raise awareness of health messages amongst CSS. Sali, who has been working for nine years at Caritas, one of MdM’s partner NGOs, is very positive about this collaboration: “I now do the IEC activities for the children myself. MdM gave me a lot of information and helped me in all aspects related to the health field because I’m not a doctor”. As a result, the children seem to have integrated some good practices. Khalid, a 12-year-old boy, even “started to teach other children what [he] learned during the IEC activities”.

A small theater play brought the IEC event to a close. The play was the result of the work of 18 CSS and six social workers, trained and supported by three theater professionals. All of them participated in a four-day theater workshop organized by MdM in September. During the four days, the children and social workers learned how to deal with space, their bodies and other people on the stage. They were also trained in story-telling and improvisation. “I learned not to show my back to the people, not to laugh on the stage”, said Ahmad, a 12-year-old participant in the workshop.

For these children, theater skills are new tools to express themselves and, in particular, to explain their specific needs

For these children, theater skills are new tools to express themselves and, in particular, to explain their specific needs. Talking about themselves is often far from easy because of their hard living conditions and the different psychological problems that can result from this environment. Aya, a 14-year-old girl explained: “At the beginning, I was embarrassed but I got rid of this”. For children and social workers, preparing the theater piece was also a great opportunity to work as a team. As Hanaa, Executive Director of the NGO Mawa, put it: “we were working together to have a good performance. I liked the integration between social workers from different NGOs, between children, on the stage”.

And the final result was a success! “At the beginning, I was afraid because I was thinking that the play was bad and the people won’t like it. But, at the end, it was good and the people were clapping their hands. When I saw the people happy, it made me happy. And I was also happy from the inside” describes Khalid, one of the CSS who was in the play. The play was inspired by the CSS’s own stories. It showed how the children tackle obstacles in their lives, related to family or their living conditions in the streets. The play also expressed their hope to reintegrate into the community through an NGO. Laughs and clapping hands were heard throughout the performance, and the children embraced the health messages in the play. “The information stays in their heads” declared a social worker.