Last Monday the R&R Summer School volunteers met with Hana Saman, the mayor of our host village, Bqarzla, and Karim Rishani, a representative from UNICEF, for some highly informative and productive discussions.
Mayor Saman talked to us about the relationship between Syrian
refugees in the municipality and the local Lebanese population, as
well as his views on the wider refugee crisis. Broadly speaking, he
claimed that the local population in Bqarzla has responded well to the
refugee families present here and treat them “like family”, with
refugees and locals alike engaging in social customs together, such as
visiting someone when they are unwell and attending weddings and
funerals. We also discussed some of the challenges of integrating
refugees into a host community, such as fears of refugees taking local
jobs or straining the economy, which are found not only in Lebanon but
also in many host nations worldwide.
The talk with Karim Rishani from UNICEF proved extremely interesting
with notable points on the discrepancies in statistics regarding the
number of Syrian refugees attending school, and the challenges faced
by the humanitarian aid sector in ensuring the availability and
continuation of education for school age children. An issue that
caught the attention of many of the volunteers was the sudden drop in
school attendance and registration past Grade 12 and the social,
economic and administrative factors that inhibit their enrollment.
Finally, we discussed the more recent development of vocational
courses that do not require elementary school certification to try to
respond to the interests and needs of young refugees in Lebanon.
Programs like these, which we are also developing here at R&R Syria,
aim to equip young refugees with skills that will open up greater
opportunities for them in the job market.
The meetings with the mayor of Bqarzla and Karim were a great way to
wrap up the lecture element of the summer school and gave us the
opportunity to discuss many of the issues we’d been learning about or
witnessing during the summer school. The rest of the week has been
spent putting what we have learnt in to practice while completing
outreach tasks and preparing a series of fun projects to do next week
in a number of the regions R&R works in. All the volunteers have been
hard at work here putting together a sports competition, a Smurf
treasure hunt and devising an art installation for the Peace Centre
that will be completed by the children of Bqarzla. Despite a few
setbacks due to weather and locations, we’re looking forward to a
fantastic few days of games and activities around Akkar next week!