Pathways to Education.
- Community outreach for refugee families in 39 villages
- Child Friendly Spaces for refugee children out of school
- Non-Formal Education for refugee children
- Ongoing public school support for both refugee and Lebanese children
- Psycho-Social Support through all the programs
- Protection, awareness and skill training for refugee women
- Earn & Learn for youth to lean planting skills and take awareness classes
- Youth Media Clubs to foster self-expression and safe internet awareness
Over 1 million Syrians fleeing the war have registered as refugees in Lebanon; they are now 30% of the population. This generous nation of only four million people has limited capacity to deal with a refugee influx of this scale.
Since the early days of the Syrian crisis, AMURT Lebanon has been supporting refugees in the mountainous upper Chouf district with their basic needs; providing fuel, blankets and warm clothing to protect against the cold winters. AMURT’s current focus is on Social Stability by increasing access to education for refugees and providing psycho-social support for all children.
The Plight of Syrian Children
Up to half the refugee children have no access to education for a variety of reasons; and many have not seen a school classroom for years. Even refugee children in school face difficulties: one in three are unable to function properly due to the psychological scars left by the traumatizing experiences of war and displacement.
AMURT is one of several NGOs working to bring a sense of normalcy back to the lives of these children. Wherever possible, AMURT works with parents and school directors to place Syrian children directly into local government schools, while also providing group or individual psychosocial therapy to help the children integrate into their new environment.
If school placements are unavailable, or if a child requires special preparation and psycho-social assistance before entering regular school life, then AMURT’s Child Friendly Space model and non-formal education program is the best option.
Child Friendly Spaces
Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) are safe, nurturing and stimulating environments, which provide young refugees the chance to rediscover their innate innocence and positivity. Children usually spend their first three months in the CFS free from educational targets, benefiting from a structured routine full of stimulating activities.
The CFS is a place to reconnect to childhood with love, joy and creativity. Nutritional and tasty food cooked fresh on site is served every day. Art therapy provides children with an outlet for their trauma so they can move into a better future. Besides personalized therapy, the children also learn to regulate themselves by hygiene awareness and breathing techniques
The AMURT psycho-social team supports children in both the CFS and public schools. They conduct observations and assessments, often working with groups or individuals referred by a teacher.
Conditions most commonly observed in Syrian children include fear, trauma, ADHD / hyperactivity, loneliness, low self-esteem and aggressiveness.
Where needed, the psychologists may use cognitive, behavioral, and positive therapies as well as psychodrama and relaxation techniques; all aimed at helping children overcome psychological distress and restoring their normal healthy outlook and behavior.
AMURT’s psycho-social team supports children in both the CFS and public schools. They conduct observations and assessments, often working with groups or individual children referred by a teacher. The conditions most commonly observed in Syrian children include fear, trauma, ADHD, loneliness, low self-esteem and aggressiveness.
The psychologists draw upon a variety of therapeutic approaches (cognitive, behavioral, and positive), as well as psychodrama and relaxation techniques; all aimed at helping children overcome psychological distress and restore their normal healthy outlook and behavior.
Every therapy session begins with psycho-education to help students better understand themselves. They discover that what they are going through is a normal and common response to intensely traumatic experiences.
When parents enroll their children, they are asked to volunteer, so now many mothers regularly support CFS activities, helping to build a sense of community. Psychologists and outreach staff regularly work with parents on family issues. This brings many positive changes in parents’ relations with their children, and further enhances Syrian community involvement with the projects.
The CFS program is followed by Non-Formal Education (NFE) activities that create a pathway for the refugee children to enter into the formal education system. This includes preparing the children for the foreign languages used in Lebanese public schools.
There are three different levels in the NFE program:
a) Basic Literacy & Numeracy (BLN) builds the foundations of learning over six months.
b) Kindergarten classes run a full scholastic year.
c) Grade One classes, that follow the public school curriculum, run a full scholastic year.
The sustainable goal is to guide refugee children towards Lebanon’s formal education system. AMURT arranges transport for the most vulnerable refugees spread throughout the mountains. It is a vital help to get these youngsters back into school, where they can experience social inclusion, stimulation and a stable routine to help soothe the trauma of war and dislocation. AMURT also engages psycho-social specialists to continue their healing process and conducts teacher training to provide children a broader support network.
Many Lebanese schools were already struggling before the enormous wave of refugees. Now refugees fill 30% of the classes in some schools, which is becoming a considerable burden on resources. Upgrading essential equipment and facilities is one way AMURT helps these public schools cater for Syrian refugees.
Syrian refugee youth are particularly vulnerable. Many of them cannot finish secondary education due to lack of papers or the pressure to do low paying menial jobs to support their struggling families. The Earn & Learn program engage them in tree planting and gardening while they take human rights awareness and language classes. The trees and vegetables are planted on public lands and is appreciated by the local Lebanese host community.
The Youth media club gives talented youth a chance to learn how create short videos that document their lives or current topics of concern for their community.
Here is an example of a video the youth made after only two months in the program.
Winter Relief 2013 / 2014
To help vulnerable refugee families though the bitterly cold mountain winter, during 2013/14, AMURT distributed heating stoves and fuel on behalf of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Harsh Conditions This family is smaller than most, but endures harsh conditions all too common. Referred to AMURT by the local municipality, they lived in a 10m2 section of a concrete shed used for farm machinery. There was no window glass, just holes, and no running water. They collected water from a spring 200m away; bathing and toilet were outdoors. The mother, when already 9 months pregnant with her second child, slipped and fell in the icy cold: the baby did not survive. The father worked long hours for the farmer, earning under $5 a day.
Winter Stoves Weather forecasters predicted an especially cold winter for Lebanon’s mountains, where snowfall of 2 meters occurs in higher areas.
Fuel-burning stoves are essential items, particularly for the many families living in poor housing or caring for a relative with a medical condition.
Motherless Children Two girls now in their grandmother’s care, who explains how their mother died in a bombing just one hour after giving birth to the younger child.
She points to the eldest. “She kept asking for her mother for one month; but after that she came close to me.” Their father remained in hospital in Syria.
Food Distribution Refugees just arriving from Syria often lack even the most basic essentials. Between 2012-13 AMURT provided all who reached Chouf
District with certain emergency assistance they required: ranging from food to blankets, mattresses, and special kits for hygiene or baby needs.
AMURT is the main international NGO based in upper Chouf and works with village coordinators, municipalities and local and international NGOs. In addition to international support personnel, AMURT Lebanon has a ready pool of dedicated local staff and volunteers: team members include Lebanese and displaced Syrians, who have a strong desire to ease the suffering of their country-folk. According to the UN, this is the worst refugee crisis for 20 years. More can and must be done. AMURT is uniquely positioned to make a difference. Your help will make that possible.
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