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A nice elephant in the glass house of Gaza
Interview with the new Gaza Inspirator Lorena Torres
Lorena Torres in Amman before departure to Gaza. Photo: Aske Birkelund Erbs
“I’m very excited! I can’t wait,” says Lorena Torres about her approaching departure to Gaza, where she will be placed as an Inspirator with ActionAid’s partner organization Tamer Institute for Community Education for the next nine months. The thirty-year-old anthropologist from Ecuador is currently waiting for her visa in Amman, where I met her for a talk about herself, the Inspirator position, and her previous and future work with social change.
Challenges and opportunities
As her visa process is making slow progress, Lorena Torres has already before arrival to Gaza been confronted with some of the many challenges that characterize the narrow strip of land with the complex history and the highly explosive political significance. Entering – not to mention exiting – Gaza is a trial in itself, what has led to many comparisons between the area and an open prison. And once one succeeds to overcome the barrier of the border, many other challenges await.
But what makes a person voluntarily want to go to Gaza in the first place?
“Of course, nobody wants to live under siege with all the restrictions and everything,” says Lorena Torres. “But the unfortunate events are not keeping me from going; quite the opposite: It shows how important it is to go to Gaza. I’m grateful that I have got the opportunity to be there and try to be useful, try to contribute to social change and be a part of a project that encourages initiatives through self-sufficiency and creative ideas”.
Through the organization Tamer, Lorena will be working with children and youth in Gaza. Photo: Silva Ferretti
To inspire and be inspired
Social change is a general goal for the various aspects of the Inspirator function. ActionAid Denmark’s Inspirator programme, which was launched in 2008, is a part of the organization’s People for Change Strategy. This strategy is aiming to provide cross-national solidarity and capacity building in new and creative ways by supplying traditional development workers with more diversified and innovative personnel categories. A crucial category is the Inspirators: Development practitioners coming with relevant experience, but also, and maybe more importantly, with a fresh pair of eyes on things. To be a nice elephant in a glass house is how Lorena’s predecessor Lucas, the previous Inspirator in Gaza, described the Inspirator function. Lorena agrees:
“The main purpose of the Inspirator programme is to bring creative input and fresh ideas to a local organization´s projects. The Inspirator can inspire, be inspired, cooperate and support different projects that voice local needs”, she says.
ActionAid is now looking to expand the programme with several Inspirators in both Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, and Egypt. Inspirators are usually placed with one of ActionAid’s partner organizations. In Lorena’s case, the organization in question is Tamer, a Palestinian educational NGO working with empowerment and capacity building of children and youth on various levels: From national literacy campaigns to community-based art and theatre projects.
Dialogue and creativity
“Promoting creativity among vulnerable children is a cause very close to my heart”, Lorena states.
Establishing safe environments for dialogue and creativity amongst youth and children has been a leitmotif through Lorena’s comprehensive involvement with development work: From she initiated the Bambú Projekt - an NGO targeting street children in Ecuador - till she last year went to Lebanon to work with social media and visual expressions amongst young Palestinian refugees without ID. Moreover, she is using her experience from her previous work with ActionAid Denmark, as she has both participated in and facilitated a number of ActionAid’s seminars. In Copenhagen, she has furthermore been involved with several projects evolving around migration and asylum.
These diverse experiences will probably turn out to be useful in the challenging and unpredictable work as an Inspirator.
“There are so many different aspects of my job”, Lorena says excitedly. I’ll have a lot of responsibility in many different areas like administration and communication, and I’ll also get a chance to use my creative skills and work with visual expressions and so forth. I’ll never get bored!”
Read more about ActionAid Denmark's Inspirator programme here: http://www.actionaid.dk/sw141416.asp