Helping young talent cut it in the arts

Ms Nadeen Ghosn, a beneficiary of the Nawaya project, dreams of creating her own clothing line.
Ms Nadeen Ghosn, a beneficiary of the Nawaya project, dreams of creating her own clothing line.PHOTO: THE NAWAYA PROJECT

LEBANON • In 2009, on a humanitarian trip to the isolated Lebanese village of Chmestar, Ms Zeina Saab met 14-year-old Nadeen Ghosn, who boldly showed her a collection of her drawings.

Ms Saab, a Lebanese-American, was blown away by the elaborate dress sketches. Nadeen had not even learnt the basics of fashion design.

"When I met her, I knew that she could one day become the next great fashion designer. But without means or resources, her talent would probably never be cultivated," said Ms Saab, now 33.

Over the next three years, she and a team laid the groundwork for the Nawaya Project, an innovative organisation that, through its Talent Programme, helps marginalised youth develop their talent which they can integrate into the workforce.

There have been more than 300 beneficiaries since the beginning of the project, with talents and passions in fields such as design, music, athletics, writing, performing arts, coding and robotics. Nawaya hopes to expand throughout the Middle East.

One of Ms Saab's first successes was to enrol Nadeen in CAMM Fashion Academy, a top fashion school in Lebanon. Through crowdfunding, Nadeen raised US$15,000 (S$20,500) for the full three-year programme. Today, she works full time at Atelier C in Beirut, and dreams of creating her own clothing line.

Nawaya relies on sponsors as well as regional and international partners. Its website also hosts an online donation platform.

Today, it has a new project, Impact Lab, funded by Unicef. It matches young unemployed Lebanese who have innovative solutions for their communities with entrepreneurs who can help turn their ideas into reality.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Helping young talent cut it in the arts'. Subscribe