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Setting a new kind of “positive” addiction in Kfaroman, South Lebanon: puppets battle against drugs

Setting a new kind of “positive” addiction in Kfaroman, South Lebanon: puppets battle against drugs
Few minutes before their first puppetry show, young participants from Kfaroman in South Lebanon, with their “handmade” puppets, and instruments in hand, anxiously practice their role.
Holding the lead puppet character, Rana Jouni, one of the puppeteers, murmurs the message of the play: “Never stop being the strength of this society and the beat of life. I couldn’t stop being a drug addict without the support of my friends and family. I just needed their presence and the will to survive”.

Gathered in the hall of Al Taharor Club in Kfarroman, on Thursday 1st of September 2016, scouts, youth, children and families eagerly came to watch “Qosasna – Our stories” puppetry show. It was part of a drug prevention campaign that aimed at transmitting anti-drugs messages. The campaign was organized by the committee in Kfaroman in coordination with the municipality, supported by the Youth Network for Citizenship and Activism (YNCA) and the UNDP “Peace Building in Lebanon” project as part of the Mechanisms for Social Stability (MSS) implemented all over Lebanon, with the generous funds of Norway.

The committee of Kfaroman is one of several committees established together by local authorities and local actors all over Lebanon, under the supervision of the municipalities, supported by the UNDP “Peace Building in Lebanon” project to address the existing challenges to social stability and peace building as well as those caused by the impact of the Syrian crisis on host communities.

During the conflict analysis phase of this MSS process, youth issues and problems including drug addiction and lack of awareness around this topic, were identified by the committee members in Kfaroman as being one of the main source of tension in the village.

“We wanted a new idea to draw attention to the issue of drug addiction and to move the youth away from all kinds of addictions, even social media platforms dependency” said Jouni, who is also a member of the Kfaroman committee and a media officer, explaining the idea behind the “anti-drugs” campaign titled “we start from here”.

It was not an easy mission to introduce the culture of puppet theatre to Kfaroman.
“At first, participants were not receptive of the idea. When they started making their own puppets, reflecting their personalities and roles in the play, they were eager to attend the rehearsals, express themselves and strengthen the bonds among each other” said Samar Daher, the theater trainer and puppet-maker.

For Tami Koshaya, drug prevention specialist, who led the drug awareness sessions in the village targeting youth and parents, the idea of the play and the sessions was to tell the world that drug addiction is not a game. “Our responsibility is to support and stand next to the drug addict.”
Along with the puppetry show and the awareness sessions, the committee of Kfaroman, organized a themed marathon on Sunday 21st of August 2016, gathering youth and adults, local actors and different NGO representatives in the village to promote anti-drugs messages.
Participants and organizers hope to spread the culture and art of puppets and sports activities all over the villages of the South to raise awareness against drugs and other addictions.