During his childhood, Abusrour often witnessed tension, violence and aggression between Palestinian refugees and Israeli soldiers. Although he was fortunate to receive a scholarship to pursue his studies in Biological and Medical Engineering in France, he yearned to improve his childhood community.
“I moved back to Palestine thinking that Palestine was only waiting for me to save it,” he said.
After nine years, he returned to Aida Camp, his birthplace, and founded the Al Rowwad Community Center (ACC). ACC uses the arts to empower Palestinian children with avenues for nonviolent expression.
According to Abusrour, ACC provides “a way to give children and other people the opportunity to think that they can change the world and create miracles without the need to carry a gun and shoot everybody else. [It is] a way to stay alive.”
ACC offers a variety of activities for children including training in dance, theater, photography, music, art, puppetry, film, and writing. By teaching the children creative skills, Abusrour hopes to give them a nonviolent alternative to oppose “the ugliness of occupation”—an alternative that he dubs “beautiful resistance.”
Abusrour’s idea was initially met with much criticism.
“When I started in 1998 saying ‘beautiful resistance,’” he said, “people were mocking me saying, ‘What do you mean? If the Israeli soldiers come in the camp, do you want us to dance for them?’”
However, Abusrour’s contagious passion and persistence has kept the program alive despite the obstacles.
“When people say ‘We can’t do anything’ or ‘It’s too complicated’ or ‘It’s hopeless,’ I say ‘We don’t have the luxury of despair,’ ” he emphatically stated.
Abusrour also stressed the importance of the Ashoka Fellowship in growing ACC. In addition to offering credibility and financial assistance, Abusrour spoke of the benefit of the Ashoka network.
“It provided a great opportunity to have a treasure of connections and links and to see other [Ashoka] Fellows … [it helped] us to see that we are not alone,” he shared.
Each year Ashoka forms these connections by electing over 100 Ashoka Fellows and establishing other key partnerships. Donate now to help us build our network and find more social entrepreneurs like Abdelfattah Abusrour.
Watch Abusrour’s full Q&A with Ashoka president Diana Wells.