Children of Stories
Asma Success Story
2014/ Zaatari-Jordan/ Asma'a Alrashed
Asma‘a Rashed is a Syrian woman who was trained with WLR on the art of reading aloud to children in May, 2014. Asma‘a lived her whole life in Dar’a, Syria, but now lives Za’atari Camp in Mafraq, Jordan because of the crisis in Syria.
Since day one of the training, Asma‘a has shown great enthusiasm for the idea of reading aloud to children. Just two days after completing WLR training, Asma’a called the staff to tell them how much the children enjoyed the reading sessions.
Adults do not always welcome children and their endless energy, but Asma‘a and her husband embraced over 50 children, who come to their home for storytelling sessions once or twice a week. Asma‘a is 25 years old now and has two children. She reflects, “I loved to read and write as a child, but marriage and life have kept me busy and I almost forgot about my passion for the written word. But volunteering with WLR has revived this passion inside me.” Shortly after her training, Asma‘a started writing her own stories and a talented nephew helped her illustrate those stories.
Za’atari magazine publishes pieces written by people in the camp. Asma’a has approached them to have her pieces published and they have agreed to publish her writings in a series, each piece in an issue. Not long after that, the magazine offered Asma’a a training course in journalism and to pay her for her writings.
Asma‘a still reads to the children in her neighborhood frequently. She has called her group, “Children of Stories.” Together, they participate a range of activities, such as holding an event they called, “Giving Sanitation Workers a Break” where the children went out to clean the neighborhoods themselves. They also collect feedback papers from their parents on their impressions of the reading sessions. Recently, two 10 and 9-year-old girls who attend Asma’a’s reading sessions started reading to the children in their own neighborhoods.
Today, Asma’a has a packed schedule; she reads once a week and she writes stories for children that they act out. A local school offered Asma’a a job, although never finished her formal education. When she told them that she did not have official qualifications, they responded that she had expertise in reading aloud and managing children, and went on to hire her. Asma’a started training other women on how to read aloud in the spirit of paying it forward. Among the many people she trained, Nour Alhuda is an 11-year-old girl, who started reading aloud to younger children. The children insisted that Nour read aloud to them, instead of Asma’a—leading to a friendly competition between the two passionate readers.
Asma’a is an empowered role models for the girls around her. At 25, she is already fulfilling her potential and doing the work she knows she was born to do. In choosing to go out of her comfort zone, Asma’s has opened doors for herself and continues to inspire the community around her.