“When I was a child, I didn’t realize how important SOS was in my life. I focused more about how I wanted a real (biological) family like the other kids I knew. But now that I’m graduated and working, I understand how important SOS was to my life. At SOS I was given a good home, a good education, a good life, and good people who helped guide me to the right path in life,” recalls Ibrahim, a 28 year old graduate of SOS.
Ibrahim is the Art Director at Ghirass Cultural Center in Bethlehem and is also the manager of Start, a Dubai non-profit that uses art to build confidence, imagination and offer healing to orphan, refugee, and special needs children throughout the Middle East. Ibrahim is helping bring this organization to Palestine.
“In both of my jobs, I teach kids art. I teach them how to use color and how to be more professional with their lines. But most importantly, I teach kids how to express themselves through art. I’m especially passionate about my work with Start. We work with the neediest children. We use art as therapy. I’ve seen how art can help children process difficult situations into something beautiful.”
Ibrahim’s childhood experiences shaped who he is and created his passion to help vulnerable children. At the age of 3, Ibrahim was abandoned by his family. After 2 years at an institute for orphaned toddlers in Bethlehem, he and his sister, Maria, came to live at SOS.
“We lived with Mama Ihsan. Even though I was sad that I could not live with my biological family, I found a family at SOS. I called Ihsan ‘Mama’ and I felt that my SOS siblings were my brothers and sisters. I’m still very close with my whole SOS family. We visit each other during the religious festivals just like all the other families in Palestine do.”
Ibrahim grew up with Mama Ihsan until the age of fourteen when he went to live in the SOS youth houses. It was here that he began to form his plans for the future.
“Art actually wasn’t my first call in life. I wanted to be a chef. Mama Ihsan was the best cook at SOS and I used to sit with her in the kitchen, watching her cook and learning how to make the dishes. I planned with Zuhair, my youth leader, to study to be a chef. But at that time in Palestine, there were no colleges where I could study to be a chef. After that, Zuhair suggested that I study art, since I always had a talent for art.”
Ibrahim studied Fine Art at Al Quds University. It was here that he realized he would not only become an artist, but also he wanted to teach art. Even before graduating, Ibrahim started teaching art lessons at Dar il Kalima college in Bethlehem. He also taught art in refugee camps. It was then he realized that his experiences as a child helped him in reaching children in need.
“The biggest impact SOS had on my life is that it taught me strength in my humanity. At SOS, I learned how to solve my problems. Anytime I had a problem, Mama Ihsan would teach me how to choose one problem at a time and to solve it. Not only was this a good life skill, but also it showed me that beauty and goodness could come from even the most difficult problems. It gave me great power in my life and now I want to give this power to others. I was cared for at SOS. I found people to support me. I had a good life. Now I want to be one of those people that help our society.”
Ibrahim chooses now to help children transform and find healing through art.
“Art is a good way to help. Children learn how to express their feelings and their struggles through art and turn them into something beautiful. It’s not just art that helps, but if there is any child that is struggling, I can share with them my experience and it gives them hope to keep going. My greatest achievement is when I receive good feedback from the managers of the organizations and schools I work in, because then I know that I have impacted the lives of children. This is the best feeling.”
When asked what his plans are for the future, Ibrahim responds:
“For a while, I thought about moving to Germany to study art therapy, but instead I began working with Start. Now I have a family. I just got married last summer. For now, my life is here. I was cared for at SOS. I found people to support me. I had a good life. Now I want to be one of those people that help our society.”