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Safe Spaces Lebanon is a faith-based non-profit that leverages the resources of faith communities and individuals in the US to empower refugees and others in need who are experiencing the devastating effects of war. Safe Spaces Lebanon is confident that the greatest lever for affecting positive change is education coupled with psychosocial development. Safe Spaces Lebanon’s mission is to engage, empower, and educate refugees in the midst of crisis.
We will empower women and children affected by the war in Syria to rediscover hope for their futures by creating meaningful opportunities for them to realize their potential and envision a future of promise.
Our dream is for the Safe Spaces Center to be a replicable model that will begin in Saida, working alongside the municipality and school system and then expanding into other regions of Lebanon.
SAfe Spaces Center
Safe Spaces Lebanon opened the Safe Spaces Center in the town of Mieh w Mieh in the greater Saida area. The center operates in partnership with Al Reaaya, an NGO providing relief and developmental support to orphans and widows affected by the war, and the Norwegian Refugee Council. Safe Spaces Lebanon and our partners offer over 200 children educational and psychosocial opportunities.
Thanks to many generous donors, renovations and first year operations have been fully funded with renovations complete and programming underway. Safe Spaces Lebanon continues to raise funds to ensure continued success of the school and fund other programs that meet our mission.
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The genesis of Safe Spaces came from a trip that a group of United Methodists from North Texas took to Lebanon in February 2017, during which we toured sites in Beirut, Saida, Sur, al Marjj, and Zahle. After visiting a number of humanitarian organizations at work, and the people who are being helped by these organizations, the group was especially struck by the emotional trauma which women and children refugees are experiencing.
REV. RACHEL BAUGHMAN
Rev. Rachel Baughman is the senior pastor to Oak Lawn United Methodist Church. She is passionate about discipleship, social justice and hospitality for those on the margins. A graduate of Texas Wesleyan University and Drew Theological Seminary, Rachel edited the CEB Women’s Study Bible and has contributed to a long list of curricula for Sparkhouse press. She serves on the leadership of Faith Forward Dallas, a multi-faith organization in the city. Rachel passionately pours her heart into a new non-profit called Safe Spaces Lebanon where she works to provide for the education and psychosocial needs of refugee children who are fleeing from the war in Syria. Her husband, Rev. Mike Baughman, is also a United Methodist minister in the Dallas area and founding pastor of Union Coffee. Together they are raising their four children, Griffin 16, Bekah 15, Sylvia 11, and Thomas 8.
REV. STEPHANIE MCKELLAR
Rev. Stephanie McKellar is a Deacon in the United Methodist Church, and a community pastor for a nonprofit. Her love of travel and joy of learning about other cultures led her to Lebanon and advocating for refugee issues. Storyteller for the Safe Spaces board, she loves to empower the voices of the human spirit encountered in the work, and listen and share stories of hope in the midst of the journey.
Jamie Griffin is Founder and Principal of Good Workforce, a people advisor and technology company transforming how businesses measure and manage the world's hourly workforce to better workers’ lives and improve the bottom line. Before forming Good Workforce, Jamie spent 14 years at Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers helping it to grow into a $500M business and with over 10,000 hourly-rate employees. He is a Baton Rouge Business Report Top 40 under 40, a frequent speaker at conferences and association meetings on a range of sophisticated business topics, and currently serves as President of the New Orleans Culinary & Cultural Preservation Society. Jamie holds a Bachelor of Science from Louisiana State University and an Executive MBA from Tulane University, which he earned while commuting between Dallas and New Orleans.
Beaux Wellborn has spent much of his adult life dedicated to helping people in need. He has started programs like the Bully Suicide Project, 40 Acts of Kindness, and most recently a Backpack Project to help our cities homeless population and underserved children in Irving. He has been featured on CNN, Fox, and CBS Evening News for Katie Couric. In 2016, he was awarded a National Community Service Award and was named one of 2016 Texans with Character. He has a passion for service, traveling, and friends and family.
Dr. Ghassan (Gus) Charif
Gus Charif is the Chief Operating Officer for Coalition for Safe Spaces in Lebanon. He oversees the execution of Safe Spaces’ strategic plan and ensures daily operations run smoothly. Gus helped create the operating strategies supporting the mission-oriented goals and objectives developed by the board of directors.
Gus is currently president & CEO of iMedReviews LLC. He has been in that role for two years, and was previously Chief Operating Officer for three years.
Prior to his co-founding of iMedReviews five years ago, Gus was the field coordinator for Physicians Geriatric Services, overseeing medical teams in 12 nursing homes across the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and ensuring the medical needs of residents were met.
He has a long personal history of working with refugees, including those in Ain El Hilwe refugee camp in his home town of Saida where he attended middle and high school. It is one of the largest refugee camps in Lebanon. That experience provided daily interactions and communication with the refugees.
The civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975, at the age of 12, he helped the local community’s leaders and his late father organize the displaced Lebanese and Palestinians to find shelter in neighborhood schools and community centers while also volunteering at a local hospital. When South Lebanon was invaded in 1978, he led teams of high school students in preparing and delivering food to people who fled the war zone.
Gus graduated from medical school in Russia in 1988, he returned to Lebanon and worked as a general practitioner for “Secours Populaire Libanais,” a nonprofit providing free medical services to those in need. He also worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross as a physician for their mobile clinic mission in southern Lebanon.
He returned to Moscow, Russia to specialize in Urology, completed his residency in 1995, and returned to Lebanon where he started his career in private practice. After marrying in 1996, he moved to Dallas, TX, where he still lives with his wife and two teenage children.
Megan Giesecke previously lived and worked in the Middle East with an international relief and development NGO, where she first witnessed the impacts of violent conflict & displacement. She has since volunteered with several local Dallas non-profits, including Human Rights Initiative of North Texas which provides legal aid to asylum seekers. These experiences led her to study conflict transformation, psychosocial trauma, and participatory theater at Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. Megan is also a passionate student of languages, including Arabic, and currently oversees translations at a global market research company headquartered in Plano.