Healing Invisible Scars Two Heller students join forces to help children in war-torn Lebanon let go of hatred. H anadi Mehdi, MA COEX’15, grew up during Lebanon’s civil war. She worries about the invisible scars years of conflict are leaving on Lebanon’s children. A veteran primaryschool teacher, Mehdi knows firsthand how traumatic events can resurface in ugly ways years later. “When the bombs drop and children see someone die on the street, who asks them what they saw, and what it meant?” Mehdi says. “Children often have to make sense of things on their own. But such memories can become seeds of hatred when a child grows up.” Mehdi’s own family “lost everything in a glimpse” in 2006, she says. When she enrolled in the master’s program in coexistence and conflict (COEX) in 2013, she was driven by a need to intervene in this traumatic cycle of war and hatred. Last summer, as the focus of their practicum, she and fellow student Iman Abdul-Musawwir, MA COEX’15/MBA’15,
24 | Heller Magazine
By Laurie Covens
devised a storytelling project to help Lebanon’s traumatized schoolchildren talk about the terrors they keep buried inside. They drew on the Boston-based Max Warburg Courage Curriculum, which Abdul-Musawwir first encountered as a Roxbury sixth-grader. Used by 80 schools in the U.S. and overseas, the curriculum helps students share stories about difficulties in their lives. Sectarian violence has long affected Lebanon, but in recent years the spillover from Syria’s civil war has added new tension, with some Lebanese supporting the Assad government and others supporting the Syrian opposition. School classrooms are not immune, and teachers continually struggle to ease tensions among their students. Before leaving, Mehdi and Abdul-Musawwir conducted a conflict analysis to clarify Lebanon’s history, politics, and the religious and ethnic barriers to coexistence.
A Magazine for the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University