Adolescent girls and their teacher at Al Maymouna school. Photo by AUB-CCECS

Lost and found, safe and sound

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Helping refugees in Lebanon build a future
4 minuten

Conflicts and unsafe situations have forced 65 million people worldwide to flee. There are more refugees than ever before. Most of them receive emergency accommodation in neighbouring countries, waiting for better times.

In these settlements they must be given the opportunity to secure a livelihood until they can return home. The Dutch government funds several programmes aimed at creating opportunities for a future perspective for these refugees.

One of the global development initiatives they fund is the Capacity Development Programme Lebanon (CDPL). Dutch institutes offer education and psychosocial support, by training teachers for instance. Two projects are currently funded under this programme.

Vluchtelingen in een klaslokaal
Students in the classroom for the LOST project Photo: War Child

LOST and found

Baalbek and Hermel, two cities in the North East of Lebanon have seen an influx of Syrian refugees in recent years. The CDLP project ‘LOST and found’ is a skills development project for teachers. The teachers are trained how to support older students (16-21 year-olds) on a vocational level. The Lebanese organisation for studies and training (Lost) works together with Stichting WarChild Holland on training the trainers.

“Teachers gain new skills in child protection, psychosocial support and trauma identification. Parents and caregivers become active members of parent-teacher councils, giving them a key role in their child’s schooling", explains Birgitte Vos, programme manager at Nuffic. "Students also take part in intensive English language courses, which boosts their career prospects and involvement in the local community.”

Syrian refugee in Lebanon
Syrian refugee in Lebanon Photo: War Child

Malak’s story

Malak is one of the students taking part in LOST. She is a year 17 girl who arrived in Lebanon, having fled the civil war in neighbouring Syria. She is enrolled in English classes in Baalbek and her participation has had a significant effect on both her education and her personal life.

“As a Syrian girl living in Lebanon, my best chance and only hope is education."

"Whenever my friends speak English I always feel left out, so this programme is the best solution to my problem", Malak explains. "I have become more confident since I can better understand and use English. I want to work hard to support myself. As a Syrian girl living in Lebanon, my best chance and only hope is education."

Malak’s father Ahmad has seen his daughter’s confidence soar following her participation in LOST and found. "Her views of the future have changed and her ambition has skyrocketed," he explains. "All this has increased my enthusiasm too and I work to motivate and support her."

Education is key

The Netherlands supports education programmes for over 3.5 million children aged 5 to 17 who cannot attend school. To learn to read and write, speak an international language, or even to follow vocational training. So that when they return they have the knowledge and skills to rebuild their country. Besides primary education, the focus is on creating opportunities for young people, especially girls to enter the job market.

At the same time, these young people were exposed to conflict or disaster. Traumatised and living under severe conditions in refugee camps, unsure about what the future holds for them, psychosocial support simply can’t be left out in education.

Read more about the Capacity Development Programme Lebanon

Adolescent girls and their teacher at Al Maymouna school
Adolescent girls and their teacher at Al Maymouna school, Project Safe and Sound. Photo: AUB-CCECS

Safe and sound

A second project called ‘Safe and sound’ aims at improving the mental health of these Syrian refugee children through community and family-based psychosocial support.

According to recent research by Harvard Program on Refugee Trauma and AUB-CCECS, almost 70% of children in mobile schools show symptoms indicating mild depression and anxiety disorders. Syrian refugee children in primary and secondary schools also display abnormally high levels of violence as a long-term effect of the trauma and stress they have endured.

“I feel like I am sleeping all day. I am lonely, I cannot go out and we are not a family as before, I feel unsafe: do we have to travel again?” (Syrian girl)

Traumatic stress

Young people involved in the project expressed high levels of traumatic stress, and at the same time identified school as a safe place, according to a context analysis conducted by the Living Peace institute and AUB-CCECS. “School is a safer place than home; we have less stress and restrictions”, a young girl explains. Her friend agrees and adds “I feel like I am sleeping all day, I am lonely, I cannot go out and we are not a family as before, I feel unsafe: do we have to travel again?”

Also for boys, finding it more difficult to talk about what they have encountered, this method helps them to open up: “It affected me positively and negatively. I became hard and tough and the man of the house. The girl became the lady of the house, so we changed from children to this.”

The American University of Beirut, Living Peace Institute, Maastricht School of Management, Kayany Foundation and Al Maymouna Education work together in this project, combining their international expertise.

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