Mohammad Issa

Puppets 4 Kids, Occupied Palestinian Territories

Mohammad Issa had an idea, he wanted to improve the psychological well-being of Palestinian children through the use of theatre. Working with a well-established Palestinian NGO known as the Yes Theatre Mohammad set up the social enterprise Puppets 4 Kids in 2014 in his home town of Hebron in the West Bank. Issa contacted SPARK through the MFSII programme because he wanted help to build a profit making arm of Yes Theatre in order to reduce their reliance on donor funding and support children in the conflict area. Puppets 4 Kids produces and performs plays with hand-made puppets to teach children between 6 and 8 years about their human rights. As well as producing plays, the business educates teachers, social workers and councillors in the power of puppeteering and how it can be used in the educational system. The business has developed fast and Mohammad now employs five puppet makers/performers, a manager and a marketing person. They have been traveling around schools in cities and villages in the West Bank area and have reached over 7,000 beneficiaries to date. The business is unique in Palestine and also in SPARK’s repertoire because of its focus on art-based activities. For Mohammad it is vital to help children and adults relax, enjoy and have fun in an otherwise tense and difficult living environment.

Mohammad has plans to scale up the business including increasing their range of communication to engaging policy makers and use modern forms of communication. Mohammad also sees the potential of building a support network which can transfer business knowledge, share good practices and training tools between participants. This will require the business to set quality standards in puppet making and performing. Finally Mohammad aims to build the staff capabilities, raise more funds and expand their services to more areas. For Mohammad the business is very much alive, driven as it is by and for children. He is proud to have been able to offer employment to the youth graduates from the Yes Theatre, who have been with the idea from the start and have a real vested interest in the business. However he recognises the challenges of scaling up, especially because of the current political situation in Palestine.

What is your personal ambition?

‘To create more job opportunities for Palestinian youths and to scale up our social enterprise in our neighboring countries and in the future also Europe. To use our social enterprise to improve the psychosocial well-being of Palestinian children who face a lot of problems. To create another social enterprise that is called Puppets 4 Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.’

What impact do you see your business making?

The project continues to have an impact. It ensured the full participation of children in all the planning and the implementation phases of the project. The participant children are more able now to express themselves and to reflect their problems on theater stage. Performances are considered to be as good outreach activities in order to create greater awareness on the psychosocial well-being of the Palestinian children. Teachers and parents are more aware of the importance of drama and the theatre in order to improve the life skills of children and their psychosocial well-being.

How do you see the future of your business?

Very promising! Yes Theatre is planning to scale up its social enterprise in different countries. The idea is to target Palestinian and Syrian diaspora refugees in the Middle East.

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