Follow your heart at The Workshops
BY LEYLA DOSS Cairo – “Pursue your Passion,” reads a banner in bright rainbow colours as it welcomes guests into a small garden filled with luscious trees and cushioned wooden chairs.
The Workshop, a cultural center established last October in Cairo’s Maadi district, offers workshops and practical training to broaden your horizons.
“As a writer, I have always loved arts and culture, but constantly felt that there is an absence of high quality skills in Egypt,” says Rasha Abo El-Soud, one of the founders. “Many are taught to pursue financial stability over their interests.”
Abo El-Soud believes that The Workshops can bridge the gap between gaining skills and pursuing passions in a way that is both exciting and practical through a wide range of classes including sculpture, electronic media, time management and even guitar lessons.
Participants may also use the space to work as they sip coffee in the café or read their choice of novel from a wooden bookshelf.
“Instead of ending the workshop with a certificate, participants create a final product which encompasses all the skills and ideas they gained in a respective workshop,” says Sara Fawzi, an administrative assistant.
Many of the students end their classes by creating a large painting, writing a song, or even writing a short story to be published in a book.
The center also accepts requests for specific tailored workshops and attempts to accommodate such needs.
“Although our workshops have a very diverse clientele, we found that many of our participants are stay-at-home mothers who didn’t have the opportunity to gain skills that match their interests in the past,” says Fawzi.
She says that they often receive feedback from participants thanking them for helping them learn new skills in such a short time.
Abo El Soud says the workshops follow a participatory system, which “uses both theory and practice in a manner which is fun and exciting.”
“We avoid the one-way mode of communication that takes place in large lectures at the university level,” she adds.
In the creative writing class, for example, participants were taught proper English pronunciation through participatory class discussions, film screenings and reading books aloud.
In another workshop, participants create projects of their own and are taught artistic Arabic calligraphy designs.
Workshops range from a few days to up to three months, depending on the depth and intensity of the course.
The maximum number of participants per class is about 12, creating a more intimate and productive atmosphere between teachers and students, says Fawzi.
Their programs include weekly movie nights showing classic and Oscar-winning films from all over the world and summer science camp for secondary and elementary school children.
Abo El-Soud says the center has also held successful charity fund-raising events, such a book sale of hundreds of books donated for free.
The founders are currently working with several orphanages, such as the Hope Orphanage to teach young children photography. After the workshop, the children will hold their very own public gallery next month.
Although the courses are mostly taught in English, Abo El-Soud hopes to eventually provide workshops in Arabic. She also hopes to branch out to various parts of Cairo and eventually the region.