Break­ing down bar­ri­ers

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - PENNY McLEOD SUN­DAY JAN­UARY 13 2019

AID agen­cies are back­ing a Tas­ma­nian-led hu­man­i­tar­ian project in Egypt.

Ben Rivers, a drama ther­a­pist, es­tab­lished Dawar Arts in Cairo in 2016 to help peo­ple af­fected by war and dis­place­ment.

His lat­est ini­tia­tive is Dawar Kitchen — a food and cater­ing busi­ness run by Syr­ian and Egyp­tian women lo­cated in one of the city’s largest in­for­mal set­tle­ments.

Mr Rivers is us­ing funds from Ger­many’s Medico In­ter­na­tional to build a space for a cul­tural cen­tre.

“The week be­fore I came [home to Tas­ma­nia] we were awarded two grants — one from the Euro­pean Union and an­other from the Arab Fund for Arts and Cul­ture and that will be for cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, so as soon as the cul­tural cen­tre is built it will go straight into use,” he said.

“We will be do­ing a three­month street mu­ral project, we will be train­ing a choir from the com­mu­nity and we will be train­ing a the­atre troupe. You have hopes and dreams, but the speed with which this is tak­ing off is unimag­in­able.”

Mr Rivers trained as a so- cial worker and first be­came in­volved in Play­back The­atre in Tas­ma­nia.

His stud­ies (a Masters de­gree com­pleted in the US and a PhD in peace stud­ies) en­abled him to spe­cialise in the use of ther­a­peu­tic and par­tic­i­pa­tory the­atre for com­mu­nity mo­bil­i­sa­tion and col­lec­tive trauma re­sponse.

In Egypt he es­tab­lished Dawar for Arts, which uses par­tic­i­pa­tory the­atre, ther­a­peu­tic drama and other arts­based pro­cesses for heal­ing and so­cial change.

“[In Egypt] there are ex­treme ten­sions be­tween so­cial classes and peo­ple of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tions and this re­sults in ex­treme seg­re­ga­tion,” he said.

He wanted to help dis­solve the bar­ri­ers by al­low­ing peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds to do work­shops and train­ing pro­grams at the cen­tre.

Dawar Kitchen’s cus­tomers in­clude em­bassies, NGOs, pri­vate busi­nesses and the gen­eral pub­lic.

A re­cent fundraiser at the Red Vel­vet Lounge in Cygnet raised $5000 to help the pur­chase of items such as a dough maker, chest freezer and a cus­tomised de­liv­ery van.

Pic­ture: MATHEW FAR­RELL

ALL HEART: Hu­man­i­tar­ian Ben Rivers works with com­mu­ni­ties in Egypt af­fected by vi­o­lence and seg­re­ga­tion. In­for­ma­tion about a crowd-fund­ing cam­paign for Dawar Kitchen is at https://chuffed.org/project/dawar-kitchen.

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