Painting Hope; the story of Amal the artist

Despite Amal’s painful journey, her talent for painting is obvious.

Lina Alqassab
A girl drawing a face
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Abdulaziz Droubi
10 March 2019

Amal is Arabic for hope- and hope is all her story is about.

“Since she was born, she has only known suffering,” says Fatima, Amal’s mother.

During birth, Amal suffered hip dysplasia causing her unbearable pain and limiting her mobility to this day. At age four, she was diagnosed with an articulation disorder requiring her to start speech therapy. At age nine, just as violence started escalating in her neighbourhood in Homs, she lost her father to the conflict. Now at age 16, Amal has already been displaced three times by the violence.

Despite Amal’s painful journey, her talent for painting was obvious.

“I first noticed her skill when she reproduced illustrations given to her by her speech doctor to teach her the correct pronunciation of objects. Even though she struggled to pronounce the words, her drawings were amazing!”

recalls Fatima with a proud smile.
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Abdulaziz Droubi

Unable to speak and express herself, Amal used her drawings as a window into her feelings, especially whenever fighting intensified, forcing her to flee once again. Amal’s skills showed especially when she started drawing faces.

“When she likes someone, she draws their face. But not that of the person she loved the most,”

explains her mother.

Amal was very close to her father whose loss severely impacted her. Whenever her mother gave her his photo to draw, she refused and started crying.

“He used to spend all of his time with her and always bring her educational toys and art materials,” continues Fatima.

Last year, to their surprise, the family found out that Amal’s speech disorder was a wrong diagnosis; she was suffering a hearing impairment.

“We were shocked, we cried our eyes out that day,” says Fatima. “15 years of her life were needlessly wasted.”

Thanks to a generous contribution by Luxembourg, Amal and her family are benefiting of the UNICEF-supported cash for disabilities programme. The programme provides families of children with disabilities with monthly cash assistance to help them provide for their children’s special needs. Thanks to the programme, Fatima was able to buy hearing aids for Amal.

UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Abdulaziz Droubi

“We can already see the difference!” says Hiba, Amal’s older sister. “She has been able to pronounce some sounds for the first time in her life,” she adds.

Amal had dropped out of school at a young age as she could not keep up with her peers. But now that she received the right diagnosis and hearing aids, she started frequenting a community learning centre to catch up on her missed education.

To encourage her sister’s talent, Hiba set up a Facebook page where Amal posts her artwork and gets requests for commissioned portraits.

UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Abdulaziz Droubi

“It makes her very happy when I read people’s feedback to her,” continues Hiba.

Amal still suffers challenges to her mobility; she needs an artificial joint implant that is beyond the family’s financial capabilities.

Girl with her paintings
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Abdulaziz Droubi

“I dream of getting the surgery to be able to finally walk without pain or assistance, and to be able to go to university,”