TELLING STORIES TO TRANSFORM A GENERATION
In a region where their voices often go unheard, Stories in the Attic will help children understand their rights – in the light of God’s love for them. How will this new program empower Middle Eastern children? By sharing something every child loves to hear – stories.
“I know that Jesus is with me,” says SAT-7 scriptwriter Layal Ghanem. “I know that for a fact. And I want children to know it, too.”
This is Ghanem’s vision for Stories in the Attic, a SAT-7 KIDS show that has just begun filming. “The focus is on children’s rights,” she adds, “because awareness in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is low.”
CHILDHOODS ON THE LINE
Awareness is low – and violations are everywhere. Child marriage, child labour, and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are rife in parts of the region, as is violence by parents.
And, while children in authoritarian families may be denied their right to play, their more impoverished peers often have plenty of free time – because they have no access to education.
“It’s always one or the other,” says Ghanem. “It is very rare to see a child with the correct equilibrium in their life.”
WISDOM THROUGH STORIES
Stories in the Attic shows children they have the right to a safe, happy childhood – and the responsibility to love others. While it tackles some weighty issues, the storytelling show is filled with positivity, laughter, and play.
The program is set in a house in Lebanon, owned by a family who fled the country during the civil war. Since the owners have not returned, the house is being rented out, and every child who comes to live there discovers something very special.
In the attic, there is a painting – a painting that comes to life.
AN ENCHANTED ATTIC
The artwork portrays four women, one of whom is played by Ghanem herself. These friendly characters step out of the frame to tell stories – including Bible stories – that shed light on the issues the children face.
The initial 15 episodes will cover gender inequality, child labour, marriage, and disability, as well as issues such as bullying, obesity, and screen time.
The show’s very first topic, however, is one that will ring true with children across the MENA: dealing with controlling loved ones.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
In this episode, the storytellers help a child whose friend is “bossy” and critical of her. While assuring the child she should be free to make her own choices, they encourage her to see that one of the girls in the painting is anxious for her, and to react towards her with kindness.
To help her understand, they tell a story about a free-spirited young girl. Afraid to displease her strict parents, the girl moderates her own behaviour. But when she becomes similarly overbearing to her beloved baby brother – because she wants the best for him – she sees her parents’ own care for her.
When they observe the situation, her parents, in turn, reassure the girl of their unconditional love – and she breathes freely again.
LAUGHING – AND LISTENING
As well as warmth and meaning, many of the stories are filled with joyful comedy.
“When we are laughing, things make sense,” Ghanem explains. “If we relate to a character who is doing wrong, sometimes our defense mechanisms kick in. But if we are laughing, we loosen up – and we start listening.”
Ghanem herself places high value on joy and play in all her work.
“I’m still in touch with my own inner child,” she says. “And that makes everything easier.”