Fellow Since 2009
Qalb Kabir (“Big Heart”)
This profile was prepared when Fairouz Omar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Fairouz is revolutionizing the counseling system in Egypt to secure the emotional health of Egyptian youth and prepare them to be active and positive adults. Once school children are encouraged to express themselves, learn about and accept their emotions and build skills of self-control, she believes teachers will be able to teach better, parents better able to communicate and children allowed to focus on learning and succeeding in their own lives. To accomplish this, Fairouz has adopted a three part module that includes fostering in-school counselors’ skills, promoting their authority and status in the educational system and improving their relationship and ties to students and their families. First, she focuses on counselors, by building their capacity through training and raising awareness about the importance of their role in improving students’ emotional health. She then focuses on parents and school administration, teaching them about the role of counselors for healthy kids as well as troubled ones. Lastly, Fairouz works with youth, instilling respect for counselors. A core program component is the encouragement for students to channel their anger, frustrations, barriers to success into developing solutions and mobilizing for action. Fairouz’s program Qalb Kabir (Arabic for “Big Heart”) thus prepares young people to make choices and demand their rights in a non-violent and positive way. Youth develop their own code of conduct and build self confidence, while also having support systems in place to help them focus on their goals and resist risky behaviors such as drug use and crime.