Hayat’s story: Using paint to raise community awareness of COVID-19

In Lebanon, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in Palestinian refugee camps, after 72 years of displacement and neglect, provide the dangerous conditions for COVID-19 (coronavirus) to spread, while the country’s economic collapse drives many refugees further into poverty.

Today, Friday 24 July, the World Health Organization confirmed that 3,105 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Lebanon and sadly 41 deaths. Among Palestinian refugees, UNRWA has reported that 23 people have been confirmed positive with the virus since the start of the outbreak in Lebanon on 21 February. 

Alongside partners, MAP is working hard to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, which could spell disaster for those living in the camps.

As part of our COVID-19 response plan, MAP, in partnership with UNICEF and five local partners, announced a call for initiatives from youth and women in the Palestinian camps to raise awareness of coronavirus and important preventive measures to help prevent the further spread of the disease. The project also aims to empower youth and women and improve their abilities to support their local community.

Last week we caught up with Hayat, one of the successful applicants who applied through MAP’s local partner, Association Najdeh, to learn more about her project and how it has been received in her local community.

Hi Hayat, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Hayat. I am a 24-year-old Palestinian refugee from Beddawi camp. I am currently not working; similar to many Palestinians in Lebanon, I am not able to find a job. I stay home most of the time. I started studying Drawing at a vocational training center, but due to personal reasons I dropped out before graduating. This matter did not stop me from following my passion for drawing; I continued to practice and try new techniques and learn.

At first, I didn’t know that I was good at drawing, but my mum’s encouragement helped build my self-confidence. She used to tell me I am talented and hang my paintings up in the house. Guests always gave nice comments and asked about the artist. Later on, I started giving my paintings as presents to friends and it made them very happy. This motivated me to work harder to improve my skills.

How did you learn about about this opportunity? What was your project idea?

I saw the call for initiatives in Najdeh’s centre when I was taking my nephew to children’s activities he attends there. I filled an application, where I proposed to do wall drawings in the camp to raise awareness of COVID-19.

People in the camp are not taking precautionary measures, even though an outbreak of coronavirus could have disastrous consequences. I wanted to raise awareness among community members by drawing messages on the camp’s walls which highlight symptoms to look out for and simple preventative measures we can all take to help prevent transmission. The drawings are colourful to catch the attention of people passing by.

Can you tell us more about murals you have completed so far?

One of my paintings is about wearing a disposable face mask. It says: “Make sure the mask covers your mouth and nose, avoid touching it when wearing. Use the mask only once, and throw away afterwards.”

Another drawing is about COVID-19 symptoms, which include coughing, fever, and a sore throat.

A third one is about prevention measures to help prevent transmission, including handwashing, covering the mouth when coughing, and avoiding touching the face.

The fourth drawing is about social distancing and avoiding handshaking.

And the one I did today is about staying home as much as possible, to reduce the risk of infection.

How have your paintings been received in your local community?

I was very happy when my proposal was accepted, but at the same time I was scared. I didn’t know how people in the camp would respond to my drawings. I used the money received from the MAP- and UNICEF- supported project to buy the materials needed for painting.

On the first day I was amazed by the interaction and engagement I got from the camp’s community. Children, adults and even older people passing by stopped to ask me questions and take photos. Some asked if they can help with painting and others wanted me to draw on their houses’ walls.

I am having a lot of fun while drawing and I am very happy with the feedback I am receiving. I still have five wall drawings to do. My next one is about washing and cooking food we get from the market.

What are your plans and hopes for the future?

I hope to continue drawing about different themes that are important to the camp’s community and to highlight issues related to life in the camp. I am influenced by the daily struggles and the situation in the camp, so I find myself drawing about it without intending to do so. I also hope to become a famous artist and to show my paintings in art exhibitions.

Thank you for speaking to us Hayat, and all you are doing to help raise awareness of COVID-19

Please donate today, to help MAP continue supporting Palestinians refugee communities amid the coronavirus pandemic:

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