Friday, January 20, 2006


Feedback from our consumers

Okay, the English translation isn't very good, but these comments from parents and children were quoted in an article in an Aleppo newspaper after the touring programme had visited.
Mr. Maher Sharefa
This project encourages children to explore their rights and, being a father I very much appreciate these activities because it contributes to the self-confidence of the child and encourages him to debate. We should anticipate in educational activities for children as the educational systems in our schools need reconsideration. I wish for these activities to expand to allow as many children and parents to attend these activities as possible for more effectiveness and interactivity.

Mr. Hazem Hadad
The activities that the project is running are very important. It’s a good initiative and a new method to teach children and develop intelligence and skills and provide them with a new educational atmosphere which would help them face the future.

Eng. Wafa Alaia
The show is a good element in the child’s world. The efforts spent on this project  were obvious. The facilitators contributed to the success of these activities and I think that the message is clear because children were enjoying the activities. They participated with enthusiasm  in exploring new things.

Ata Khateeb
These are new activities in the city. I think it develops the child as he can talk about everything and discuss with facilitators. I wish our parents were with us to learn  debate methods and understand our desires and emotions. I think these activities would motivate us to learn more about Child’s Rights and I think now holiday were useful because we learned very important things instead of watching TV and playing.

Moh. Firas Koteni
I enjoyed the participation in these activities and I’ll like them to be always available. I think these activities prove that knowledge is important. The most important thing is that the facilitators showed us the rules of debating and how to talk and listen to others and express ourselves and learn about child’s rights and how to assume responsibilities in return of rights. Here they taught us to speak and not to be shy.

Seba Koteni
I’m happy that I participated in these activities to express our views and speak about ourselves. They taught us how to debate and participate actively but in an organized way.  We have to react to what we see. I wish what we learned is applied in the family and in the society.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Site issues

One of the more frustrating elements of the project recently has been to do with the site. We have been allocated part of what will be a new 125,000m2 landscaped public park in the centre of Damascus. It's about the best possible site we could have in terms of location, close to major hotels, public transport routes, the Old City, and other cultural attractions. However, it was clear from quite early on that the city's planners had little or no idea of how this important public facility should be designed and the various elements coordinated. Having decided on a large green public space, they then produced a huge list of buildings they wanted to include on it. They then accepted an offer from Austria to provide an underground car park along the length of the site. In December we held three lengthy meetings solely in order to remove unnecessary new buildings from the specification for the park. A few days ago we had another meeting at which the underground car park was considered - or rather, given cursory attention. Given that it will be the first element to be done and its entrances could ruin the entire frontage of the site, I am hoping that some proper terms of reference are put in place by the expert from France the city has now employed to draw the planning together.

At least the planning can now be considered together. At least five months have been lost in respect of the landscape design process due to mis-communication between Damascus and Vienna, and that has allowed our project to catch up. We should have our own architectural brief complete within weeks now. So the landscaping and architecure of the discovery centre can (in theory) be properly integrated, which is what we have wanted all along. Ideally, the experience inside the centre should flow easily into the outside world. We'll see.



A great new crew doing the activities

Long time since last post. My last two stints here have been fairly manic, long hours at work, lots of issues to sort, or at least move forwards, and very little social life. The good news is that having got rid of the professional actors we used to do the summer sessions, and who brought a whole lot of attitude with them, we have got a whole new crew. These are young Syrians, eight male, four female, who have been recruited and trained from scratch in three weeks. The results have been marvellous. The first week of real performance, their third training week, started with a visit on day one from the Minister of Culture, which was very welcome but unsettling. Then we found that numbers trying to get into the performances got larger and larger. Towards the end we virtually had a riot on our hands as we turned away disappointed families. The new crew took all this in their stride, performed well, ran the activities brilliantly, and even did some television appearances as well. They're keen, get on well together, and love what they're doing. What a pleasant change from the professionals. One visitor to the activities could not believe that all the crew members could do all the different roles.

For this new phase we have changed the teenage activity substantially, and it is now much more dynamic and enjoyable. We have also separated it entirely from the other age groups, so the teenagers get a whole two hours of debate, newspaper making, video work.

The trainer, Adam Senior from the UK, is just extraordinary. He has taken a collection of individuals, given them techniques and confidence, and taken them to places beyond anything they imagined they were capable of. Fantastic to see in action, real tears in the eyes stuff.


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