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