I will draw strength from my children and the generations being destroyed.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD STORYTELLER
Produced By & 2nd Camera
FRANCISCO J. ALCALA
Director of Photography
Location Audio Mixer
FRANCISCO J. ALCALA
The film was amazing – there were so many stories interwoven together to tell this larger story. I love how reading became the conceptual tie but it was really about the joining of these different lives and making things better for people. Very heartwarming and so inspiring. The film is also visually beautiful.
— Adrienne Pao, Director of Academy of Art University, SF.
War tragically pushed Asmaa out of her home country, Syria, where her destiny had been written as a wife and mother with only 16 years of age. Asmaa rebuilt her adult identity as the neighborhood storyteller and began using reading aloud to children for fun as a bridge to tackle critical issues in her new community at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.
Seven years later, with Asmaa’s first born daughter reaching adolescence, a flashback of her education deprived past emerges and inspires her to embark on a new read aloud project to empower teenage girls to build a future of opportunities she never had. Despite her complex living situation as a refugee and the community’s conservative mindset, Asmaa is determined to raise a conscious generation of successful women.
The Neighborhood Storyteller is a feature film documentary that explores human resilience, the transition from child to adult and one's capacity to turn hardships into an opportunity for self growth.
Film Festivals and Awards
In support of
We Love Reading
Film's impact goal
Trained by Jordanian nonprofit, We Love Reading, Asmaa uses the skills she learned, her creativity and resourcefulness to embark on reading projects that contribute to building a conscious generation of strong and empowered women.
The Big Heart Foundation, HOME Storytellers, and We Love Reading have partnered to create a film that highlights how reading aloud to children in their native language for fun is enhancing psycho-social wellbeing, providing education and creating change-makers in refugee communities.
The Neighborhood Storyteller aims to inspire more people around the world to follow in Asmaa's footsteps and bring change to their own communities through reading aloud to children.
Interested in hosting a screening?
We have prepared a screening toolkit and guide for anyone interested in hosting a screening within their community. For more information visit The Neighborhood Storytellers film's website where you will be able to fill out a form and download the guide.
Many refugee camps struggle to provide proper education systems because of safety concerns, practicality, cost, sustainability, and lack of qualified personnel. As a result, children are not in school, sometimes for years at a time. Even in cases where there is a school, it is often unsustainable, and girls often don’t participate. Moreover, there is a collective sense or mindset within the refugee community of “needing others to help you” suggesting a lack of confidence and motivation that prevents people from believing they own the power to improve their own situation. The lack of confidence and motivation can also be a result of insufficient knowledge or experience.
Furthermore, new challenges have arisen due to the current circumstances of COVID-19. The pandemic constrained the opportunities for many children to learn during the period through which educational institutions were not able to operate in person because the social distancing measures that were adopted to contain the spread of the virus.
The Big Heart Foundation
We Love Reading
The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) strives to not only respond to humanitarian crises but to also work on developing projects which support vulnerable populations and empower people to become advocates and supporters of their communities. Asma’s story encapsulates the essence of the work we do.
$1 to $4
We Love Reading (WLR) is a Jordanian nonprofit organization that fosters the love of reading for pleasure among children. Their initiative trains local men, women, and youth to hold regular read-aloud sessions for children in public spaces in their neighborhoods.
The We Love Reading program is designed to help communities develop ownership over their circumstances by training local volunteers to become WLR Reading Ambassadors. The positive impact of this practice has been reflected on both the children being read to as well as the adults doing the reading. It is empowering people to overcome traumas, regain confidence, identity and courage, foster social responsibility and civic engagement, and create change on a community level. Such a simple, sustainable, and scalable practice, that shows people that they are capable of doing things on their own, should be fostered around the world to empower more refugees to become changemakers in their own communities.
Through "The Neighborhood Storyteller" we invite people to learn more about Asmaa, her impact, goals and objectives. The film is a representation of how empowering an individual through adversity can transform their lives and create a positive ripple effect in their community.
Together we can multiply the impact. There are many ways you can get involved…
Host a Screening
Share the film with your family, friends or colleagues. Click to download screening toolkit.
Social Media Buzz
Post any of the visual assets we have prepared for you to share! Click here.
Remember to tag: @homestorytellers, @thebigheartuae, @wlreading
A donation to any one of the organizations involved will contribute to refugee empowerment and self-reliance.
Follow Asmaa's footsteps and become a reading ambassador by taking the 2 day We Love Reading free training.
Buy "My Mama's Magic " a book based on the life of Asmaa. Use Asmaa's story to inspire children to lead the change.