Our students are happy to finally be back in the school after the recent lockdown in Lebanon due to the Covid-19 virus. They are excited to get back to learning English, Arabic, and now are using our new Computer Lab. We have the students using social distancing and have each class separated.
Your constant support is what is keeping Safe Spaces a place for these children to overcome difficulties and continue rebuilding their lives. Safe Spaces Lebanon not only provides their education but also gives them hope and a future.
Beirut observed a minute of silence at 6:08 p.m. on Friday September 4, marking the passing of exactly one month since the devastating Beirut Port explosion that shook the country and the world on Aug. 4, and in honor of the victims killed by the blast. The blast is now listed as one of the strongest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, killing over 190 people and injuring more than 6,500. According to U.N. estimates 200,000 housing units and 40,000 buildings were damaged in the blast. 3,000 buildings were damaged so severely that they are currently uninhabitable. The World Health Organization did an assessment of area hospitals and determined that eight were partially damaged and one is completely destroyed. Out of the eight hospitals surveyed, only three are currently functional. Four field hospitals were set up in the affected areas in order to support local hospitals.
The Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) established 3 tents in Horsh Beirut, Mar Mekhael and Khanda El Ghamik providing psychological support to families. Governorates mobilized resources through NGOs and International Agencies to provide people in alternative shelters with required support. 329 different entities (national, international) are currently active stakeholders in Beirut response area.
In an effort to ensure that all children affected by the Beirut blast can access education when the new school year starts this month, UNICEF called for urgent actions and increased support as 163 public and private schools were damaged by the explosions, impacting over 70,000 students and 7,600 teachers.
An estimated 600,000 children live within a 20-kilometer radius of the blast and could be suffering negative short-term and long-term psychological impacts.
This all happened at a time where the Lebanese people are facing an increasingly desperate situation with the impending economic collapse and lack of government services in their country, now can’t bear costs of making homes livable. Costs are soaring as the Lebanese pound continues to depreciate. Many people cannot obtain food, medicine, power, or shelter. In the absence of near-term solutions, over 50% of the Lebanese population is facing poverty. The COVID-19 outbreak has compounded the severity of the hardship faced by so many Lebanese. The situation is even worse among Lebanon’s refugee population. This is where the critical role of humanitarian organizations, both local and international, has become an indispensable tool for reducing the pain of the more than 50% of Lebanese now living in poverty.
Teams of volunteers, a symbol of the help-each-other spirit that’s grown up from the failures of Lebanon’s corrupt political class, and from the believe that the vibrant civil society will play a key role in channeling the international aids to local beneficiaries especially that affected people don’t trust the government, and in “preventing clientelistic groups from infiltrating the donation system,”
Safe Spaces Lebanon had stepped up when needed most. In response to the explosion our team deployed to the disaster area to provide food, water, and cleanup assistance. Safe Spaces Lebanon’s team under Ghaleb El Charif’s direction and supervision were able to make multiple visits to the affected areas and meet with the several organizations, local and international, all came to offer help.
Our efforts lead us to a multi partner project with Offrejoie (a voluntary movement across Lebanon to clean, restore and rehabilitate damaged areas), AUB (American University of Beirut landscaping and design team).
We will all be working together to clean up, restore, rehabilitate the Lady of Karantina historic church.
After the clean-up is completed, we will be working on creating the children’s “healing” garden on the land owned by and near the Lady of Karantina Church in the Karantina neighborhood.
The project includes a communal kitchen and a garden divided into a playground, a vegetable garden and a lunch space. Once rehabilitated, the garden will serve as a “healing” space for children, where they will be able to participate in recreational activities in hopes of overcoming the traumas they have developed as a result of the explosion that took place on August 4th.
In parallel to the rehabilitation works, we are hoping to initiate shared community spaces in the Karantina neighborhoods, where the children will also be able to interact with their peers from different backgrounds and faiths.
Safe Spaces Lebanon and OffreJoie teams started by installing tents, planned to serve as a break area for volunteers. The rehabilitation works will continue daily, and we will keep you updated on all the progress as they take place.
This year, Eid el-Adha occurs in the midst of a grave economical crisis, the corona virus pandemic, and all social, economical and political difficulties that come with the two. Safe Spaces Lebanon hence distributed food units to the families of its students, to alleviate some difficulties. In the hopes of brighter days, we join our efforts to facilitate spreading joy in darker ones.
From Math to Arabic to Computer, Safe Spaces summer camp offers the students a variety of classes for them to excel in. While introducing new topics to broaden the horizon of students and their interests, we insist on giving standard academic courses. Our goal is to ensure the students are prepared for their return to official schools in the next academic year, with a vision for the future, and the emerging needs for certain skills such as coding, and critical thinking…
On the 4th week of May, Safe Spaces Lebanon organized an entertainment event for the students at the Al-Naddaf shelter for Syrian refugees in the occasion of al Fitr holiday, which coincided with the end of the academic year 2019-2020.
In the presence of the Director of the Lebanon Office, Mr. Ghaleb El Charif, and under the guidance of the teachers, different activities, competitions, and challenges were held among students, in addition to dancing.
The event also included a balloon water fight, which added enthusiasm to the celebration environment during the heat.
After the various activities, it was time for snacks, that is when croissants and juice were distributed to the children.
The event was culminated with the piñata, which increased the intensity of competition between the kids who rushed to collect the candies.
Delighted and entertained, especially after approximately three months of confinement, the children ended the winter-spring semester with ringing laughter and huge smiles.
While we can’t proceed with our education program as usual, our educators have been working to find creative ways to keep our students engaged and learning. The teachers have designed a continuous exchange of worksheets between the students and them to stay on track. The teachers prepared and printed these worksheets including exercises and texts, and distributed them as of Monday to their students in the center. The teachers then formed groups of two to alternate daily visits to the shelter, and assist and supervise the students with their work.
The teachers were pleasantly surprised that students had their worksheets almost complete even before the first visit. The students, excited about getting back to learning, were thrilled to reconnect with teachers and receive feedback on their work. We are thrilled at the success of this short term solution and plans are underway for them to continue. Every week, the teachers will distribute new worksheets, and continue to visit students in the shelter, while of course taking all measures reinforced and encouraged by the ministry of health about necessary social exposure.
Additionally, the Safe Spaces team continues to offer support to our families through grocery delivery. A new batch of nutrition boxes has been prepared and distributed by the Safe Spaces team. Mr. Ghaleb el Charif made sure that this process was finalized before the beginning of Ramadan, and that all families at the Naddaf shelter have a full table in this holy month. With our continued collective efforts, we can create ways to alleviate difficulties and offer support, both general and academic, to our Safe Spaces families. Ramadan Mubarak!
“Martial law in Lebanon has been put in place and people are thankfully respectful of the new laws enforced to ensure everybody’s safety. Henceforth we have been more successful in our path to flatten the curve. However, the situation is still risky & so we are still in quarantine. We have a curfew and rules to limit the movement.
Safe Spaces Lebanon has been staying alert as Mr. Ghaleb el Charif is keeping up with the shelter and the state of the refugees. He is also in constant communication with UNHCR and keeping himself updated with official authorities to be reassured on the future status of schools and the students. He also recently started to prepare for the second batch of boxes to distribute to the families of the Naddaf shelter before Ramadan starts on April 25.”
Thanks to Ghaleb and all who are working to provide for our students and their families! For more information on how the crisis is impacting Lebanon, see the below article:
Alongside the rest of the world, we are ever vigilant about keeping the children, families, staff and faculty safe at our center. As such, we wanted to provide you an update on how they’re doing and what they’re doing in the midst of the pandemic. Please read below for a wonderful update as provided by Lama Charif, our new content writer and graphic designer.
If you are interested in donating to help Safe Spaces Lebanon support these families at this time, please do so online by clicking here.
by Dalia Chaif
I often reflect on my resistance and parents’ persistence to connect us to our heritage, as I now realize they know it is best for us. My parents knew the endless opportunities that come from respecting cultures and being able to communicate in multiple languages.
For example, my family built a school in Lebanon called “Safe Spaces Lebanon” for Syrian and refugees who are unable to receive an education. They were able to do this with the support of Methodist ministers and local non-government organizations. My brother and I worked at the school and with the children this past summer. It gave us an entirely new perspective on our own lives and how much our parents have sacrificed to get us to where we are today. These children showed us what true resilience means.
We go back and visit and have created a special bond of language and learning. One of the children who exemplifies that bond is a 15-year-old boy named Mouwaffak. When he first came to Safe Spaces Lebanon, he did not read or write and showed aggressive behavior. Now, the teachers say he is one of the brightest students in his class, always problem-solving and following instructions. The last time we spoke, he said in Arabic, “I did not realize how important it was to learn English, because I felt that it was unnecessary. Then I started attending Safe Spaces, and I understood how vital it was. It gives me access to learn about science, math, and numbers, preparing me for international business in the future.” Learning a language bridges the gap in both directions, and can create opportunities for anyone: a high school student preparing for college, or a young Syrian refugee chasing the dream of an unthreatened life.
Therefore, with the most appreciation, gratitude, and sincerity, I say,
“Shukran mama wa baba. Shukran jazeelan.”
(Thank you, mom and dad. Thank you so much.)
by Mona Charif
My family and I spent our Christmas vacation in Lebanon. On Christmas day, it was cold and rainy, but we still wanted the kids to have a good day. We took the Safe Spaces students to an indoor sports pavilion that Ghaleb booked for them. There, we played soccer, basketball, volleyball, and many other games while also singing and dancing, and having lunch. Jad, my son, showed them for the first time how to throw and catch a baseball with a mitt. My daughter Dalia put together two soccer teams, boys against girls, to show the girls that they could win against the boys and play themselves. I had a great one on one conversation with Mouaffak; we talked about his plan to work hard, and he showed me what he learned. He counted for me in English and recited the English alphabet. We all ate manakish and drank juice while listening to music and enjoying each other’s company.
Two days later, we went down to the school and delivered the laptops we brought with us from the US. It was a great opportunity that Ghaleb put together with cake and celebration to announce the opening our new computer lab.
We showed the students how to type and play learning games that Rana had installed onto the laptops. The kids were drawn to this experience and enjoyed it very much. After two weeks, we are seeing great improvement in the kids desire to come to school and work on the computers. It was a great experience that helped us bond even greater with my family and these students. After they recognized my family and wanted to spend time with them, it made me see that we are all becoming one united family.
We will upload photos, videos, success stories to the website as we update the website. Shaun has been a great help in this regard. I’m working closely with him to ensure the appropriateness and accuracy of the material we’re posting.
We recently began a new computer technology program for the students at Safe Spaces Lebanon. Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to provide the first set of laptops last month. They had an immediate impact upon the children. It was amazing to see their eyes light up when seeing a computer for the very first time. These laptops will help us expand our curriculum and also open up the entire world for the kids.
Gus and Mona Charif decided that there was no better place to spend Christmas than with the children. Not only is their family spending the holidays with the children, they are also bringing more of the laptops that were donated. By the end of this next semester we are hoping to have enough laptops for all of the children to learn from.
This past Saturday night, our team (Rachel Griffin Baughman, Gus Charif, Beaux Wellborn, Mara Morhouse, James Michael Williams, David Griffin and Bridgette Griffin) was packed and ready to go to Lebanon to check in on our school. We had prepared our hearts and minds to connect with the country, the kids and the families we love. Because of the demonstrations in Lebanon we decided to re-book the trip for next spring. We keep the people of Lebanon and its government in prayer at this time.
Even though we can’t be there now, let us reflect on the last trip we took just over a year ago when we opened the school. Let us give thanks for these bright young faces and partners who collaborated with us so joyfully. Here’s a wonderful video that was created for us last year by Alex McKellar.
Inshallah, the journey continues; into 2020 and beyond!
Summer is almost over, and we can’t believe we are starting year 2 for our students at Safe Spaces Center!
Even though it’s summer, our kiddos haven’t really stopped attending school. Rather, they’ve been attending our summer program and have made some incredible strides that we want to share and celebrate with you over the next few weeks!
We are officially launching are “Keep Going!” campaign for this next school year. To help cover some of the costs of our summer program AND get our kiddos ready for next year, we are looking for support from you all to help keep US going with this good work.
The money you donate is used on a 90/10 basis: 90% of all funds raise go to the programming of education and psycho social support for the students at Safe Spaces. 10% goes towards admin, staff and other expenses. Every dollar counts.
Without your support, we would not be seeing the impact of Safe Spaces in the lives of our students. The upcoming posts will speak for themselves; these results are real! The progress is showing! Your support makes this all possible. Share the journey with us and consider a donation to keep the future bright for these boys and girls.
Help the students & teachers at the Safe Spaces Center by sharing this post and/or donating today! Shokran in advance!
How can you help?
- Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/safespaceslebanon/
- Follow us on Instagram: www.instagram.com/safespacelebanon
- Donate online: https://www.safespaceslebanon.org/donate/
Keep Going with educational programming being provided to refugee children recovering from the impact war in Syria.
In the very beginning of this last academic year, after 8 weeks of schooling, teachers and administrators were able to assess each student on behavioral issues, and academic basics such as the alphabet, colors and numbers, etc. Teachers observed a large disparity between the students’ knowledge/behavior and their ages, showing minimal development due to their past circumstances.
Safe Spaces Center educators and students pushed onward to finish out the school year, but as they neared the summer, teachers in the center realized the danger in letting the students go for the summer; too much progress could be lost! As such, they requested to keep the school operating through the summer months.
Thanks to caring teachers, supportive partners and generous donors, Safe Spaces was able to fully fund the teachers’ request – positive news met with enthusiasm for teachers and students alike. Can you image… kids… wanting to stay in school through the…SUMMER? What!?
Keep Going with Music!
Safe Spaces is using music education to empower refugee children recovering from the war in Syria by providing educational and psycho social programs at our Safe Spaces Center in Lebanon.
The first session of our summer program was a discovery period. The intention was to have fun with the kids and enjoy the summer vacation while making use of our time. As such, during this first week, our students and teachers got familiar with the programing which included music, drawing, pottery and handcrafts, and sewing. The students focused on music lessons first, andeach of them had his/her own instrument which included guitar, flute and even xylophone! They enjoyed learning the musical notes and practicing the instruments.
Keep Going Mohammed!
Students displaced in Lebanon due the nearly decade-long Syrian conflict lack educational and behavioral development. Some of the children attending programs at the Safe Spaces Center exhibited aggressive behaviors towards each other and the teachers, and little to no motivation to learn.
Despite these challenges, our staff kept working with the students, and in a few months, there was a large improvement in their behavior and their learning capabilities. They developed a desire to learn and to come to school daily. They began to change!
For example, meet Mohammed. He is 9-years-old and when he came to Safe Spaces Center, he exhibited aggressive and disrespectful behavior toward others. However, after 3 months in our program, he was able to control himself and his actions, follow instructions, and show interest in letters and numbers. This is incredible progress! Way to go, Mohammed!
Keep Going with Art!
Safe Spaces is using art education to empower refugee children recovering from the war in Syria by providing educational and psycho social programs at our Safe Spaces Center in Lebanon.
During the second session of our summer program, the kids were divided into groups and they all had the chance to work with mud and create new shapes. They also learned cross-stitching and sewed their names on canvas and learned new techniques in drawing. Additionally, there was an exceptional visit from the wonderful, talented and creative Weeda Sabb. Kids experienced an “art rush.” Using glue and craft paper, they were able to create unique canvas collages of their own expression!
Thank you Weeda for your support of Safe Spaces and being a difference-maker to the Syrian refugee students of the Safe Spaces Center in Lebanon.
Help us spread the word about the transformative work partners, educators and students are undertaking.
A Day of Hope
Today was a wonderful, hope-filled day. We set up and decorated the classrooms for tomorrow’s opening, thanked our instrumental partners and support team who made this possible, and watched the dreams, prayers, fundraising, regrouping, and listening come to culmination. From vision and ideas to a dream that opens tomorrow, may we all believe our small, collaborative steps can make big change. #safespaceslebanon