Over the last several years, Art Therapist Myra Saad has worked with boys at the Nader Association for Deliquent Enfant Rehabilitation in northern Lebanon. The center gives at-risk and marginalized boys a chance at normalcy, often their last chance. Many come from the streets and highly abusive environments. Some have witnessed and even participated in the ongoing fighting between Sunni and Alawite Muslim residents of the nearby city of Tripoli. Nader equally welcomes boys from both sides of the conflict, encouraging them to break centuries-old patterns of hatred.
The art-based interviews that Myra conducted on behalf of War-Toys were more challenging than most. In a typical session, previous work from the project is shared to give the children a better idea of how their accounts will be used. At Nader, the reaction from the boys was instant and extremely telling. The idea of recreating these moments, or even sharing them at all, was laughable. Anyone that opened up was ridiculed. It was only through Myra's training and talent that the boys felt comfortable enough to reveal some of their experiences and thoughts. It took real effort though, and many of the boys responded aggressively to the questioning, more than likely relying on old behaviors to cope with the feelings that emerged.
A burning heart was repeated in many of the boys' drawings, symbolizing their passion for any number of things, from sect and family to country and football teams. German flags also showed up as symbols of strength since their team won the World Cup.
With the presence of ISIS in northern Lebanon and the boys' involvement in neighborhood and sectarian violence, it wasn't surprising to see the fighting represented in their drawings. It was, however, a bit surprising to see how much one boy aligned himself with the group, even inserting his name into the ISIS flag after Mohammed.
He went on to describe how a hidden arsenal of weapons (including artillery named after him) would destroy the army and their cowardly tanks. Note the black flag at the bottom and the crossed out flag of Lebanon.
Again, many of his peers drew about their love for the Lebanese army. It was interesting to have both sides represented in a single session. It really speaks to the unique strength and mission of the Nader Association.
My thanks to the boys that participated and the entire staff there. It's not an easy job that they're doing, but it is sorely needed in a area that is so divided and with boys treated so badly.