For decades, street children have been portrayed as troublemakers and a nuisance by the media, as if their life will amount to little more than yet another inconvenience for society. All this time, no one tried to get closer to these children, to understand their pain, their suffering, their dreams, or even just listen to their stories.
These children need a voice to show society that their lives are not what one might assume. On the night of 19 February at 6pm, Bibliotheca Alexandrina will open its doors to host a narrative play in which 15 homeless children will tell their stories in front of an audience in the library’s theatre.
“The idea came about because Bibliotheca Alexandrina wanted to plan an event to raise awareness about street children,” main organiser of the event Randa Moussa said. ‘’We did not want to do the usual thing of hosting some speakers to present the issue theoretically, we wanted to involve the children themselves and listen to them instead of just talking about them.’’
The organisers initially contacted NGOs, which provide care for homeless children in Alexandria with the idea of hosting a talent show to shed light on the children’s different skills and success stories. The idea was developed when Jesuits Cultural Centre in Alexandria decided to train 15 street children in narration techniques to help them tell their stories in front of an audience.
”We believe that listening to these children as they relate the troubles or fights with family that led them to flee from their homes and knowing about the violence and dangers they face in their everyday lives will help the audience emphasise with their plight,” Moussa said.
The faces of 15 smiling children on the event poster show their perseverance despite the hardships. Other event posters portray street children carrying signs with messages such as: “Have you ever tried to help me?”, “I’m just like you”, “It’s out of my hands”, “I’m just a child”, and “Don’t avoid me”.
Although some claim that subjecting children to the pressure of facing an audience could cause more harm than good in the long term, well-known psychiatrist Manal Omar insisted on presenting the event herself to study how participating in this play could improve the children’s communication skills and help integrate them into mainstream society. From her point of view, the event will enable the children to gain the confidence and the courage to face society and talk about their struggles.
‘’The play has already been presented in the American University in Cairo (AUC) and the Jesuits Cultural Centre. We hope that its third showing in the Bibliotheca will attract larger crowds and therefore raise even more awareness of this issue. The play will then be uploaded to YouTube for anyone who wants to listen to the children’s touching stories,’’ she said.
Aside from the play, a number of panel discussions will be held to talk about possible solutions and how to raise public awareness.
The 24-hour child abuse hotline remains relatively unknown. By calling 16000, a social worker will be sent to assess the child’s needs and help him or her immediately.
‘’The invitation is open for anyone who wants to take part and support street children. We will be waiting for you,’’ Moussa said.