Breaking down barriers
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.
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.