Support Syrian Refugee Teachers
Help us fund one month of salaries for teachers and school staff educating Syrian children and youth and empowering families.
$10,400 needed for one month of salaries
€9,152 needed for one month of salaries
We are a group of past and present volunteers from all over the world who are a part of a young community-based education and empowerment centre for Syrian families living in south Lebanon. Some of us watched the school doors open for the first time two years ago. The rest of us have joined at some time along the way.
We are located in Saida, where there is a previously abandoned and still unfinished building that has, since the war in Syria, become an overcrowded shelter housing 1500 refugees. Many Syrian children have missed key years in their early education due to the breakdown of services in the areas affected by conflict and the difficulties to providing education in nearby countries to an enormous population of children in need of access.
Before the centre opened, children at the shelter did not have consistent access to education. But since the centre’s services began, the classrooms have become a bright and active place amid the dimness and monotony of the building.
The organization we represent, Soutien Belge Overseas, is the only NGO with a daily presence in this shelter. We have been working inside for almost two years to provide children a safe place to learn, grow, and settle into a positive daily rhythm.
We are working to prevent the so-called ‘lost generation’ of Syrian children by providing access to education with catch-up schools, the Saida centre our largest. Our programs provide a participative, creative, and holistic learning environment where children and their families engage in courses like Arabic, English, math, and science; hygiene, awareness, and life skills sessions; empowerment tracks like sewing and crochet; and psychosocial support, especially for those who have lost a parent.
We have many photos and stories of children that we could share with you, and someday we will. But for now, we would like to ask you to listen to the stories of those who teach them.
Most of our teachers are refugees themselves, some are parents of students in the school, some are residents of the shelter above it. Despite the societal and economic pressures of their own, they serve our students at least 5 days a week, each day tirelessly working 3 shifts of about 100 students each. At least half of our staff have been with us since the first day of school almost two years ago.
Moayyad is one of them. He studied special education in Syria before escaping the war. Now he teaches focused classes to children with learning difficulties or who have never been to school before. He is known for his soulful and effective teaching, bringing his students up to grade level quickly and creatively. At home, he creates colourful learning materials and games so that his students stay interested, learning through play and movement. There is never a day we don’t hear singing outside his classroom door, and he leads the whole student body in morning exercises before the day begins. Working at the centre allows him to use his education to support other Syrian families like his.
His job allows him to help his own family, too—he alone provides for his parents and younger siblings.
Katryn* began working with us when she moved to Lebanon less than 3 months after her husband was killed. She explained that she had spent all of her time inside with her two young boys following the death of her husband. “I didn’t even see the sky. I didn’t expect to work. I didn’t expect any life. All doors were closed,” she explained. “When I started [working], I couldn’t even smile.” But now, Katryn is laughing again. In SB’s centers, permanent local teachers are placed with short-term volunteers who support their lessons and provide a native speaker for English class. Because of the international volunteer program, Katryn now has friends from many countries, but her closest friends are the local staff. “They are my family, really,” she said.
Our students worked hard throughout the summer to make progress in math, Arabic, English, and science. The consistency of a seamless school year helps students to continue to gain ground in all subjects and to maintain the routine and anticipation of the school day.
Since the beginning of this new school year, the teachers at the children’s public school have been exclaiming about their improvement, checking high test scores twice to make sure that our students really scored so well.
Their catch-up work, homework help, study skills sessions, and tutoring at the centre showed effective! This sense of pride helps our students to feel they are capable of even more progress and to take on new challenges.
When the project began, it was a feat just to keep the students in the classroom for the whole lesson. But with each semester they have become more accustomed to the school environment, and now even taking tests each month is usual for them.
We are holding parent-teacher meetings every month to encourage families about their students’ learning. This can help to decrease violence suffered by children in the shelter: While we address children’s strengths and weaknesses alike, we focus on their growth and urge parents to treat struggle as a part of the learning process rather than to punish children for mistakes.
In August 2018, the centre experienced a one-month gap in grant funding. Every member of our staff chose to work for the entirety of the month despite risks, missing rent and utilities payments and having less money for the most basic necessities for their families. Some of the staff took loans from family or friends in order to stay committed to their students and continue their work.
This kind of dedication especially affects students like Hadeel*, an aspiring human rights lawyer in 5th grade, who stopped attending school altogether, both at our center and public school. Her father decided that she was too old to continue her education and that it was time for her to stay home with her mother to clean. Our staff met with her father several times about her success in school and the opportunities she might be afforded throughout her life if she would continue her studies. Her father did let her return to school but was not convinced that it was worth her time.
At the end of last semester, Hadeel was first in her class in public school. Her father held a party at their home to celebrate her accomplishment and invited her teachers from SB. He thanked them for helping her succeed. The next day, he allowed all of his children to return to our centre.
When Katryn recently moved away, Hadeel and the other students Katryn had taught in her classes wrote so many grateful letters to her that they could not carry them all at once. They thanked her for the energy and time she had given them and particularly for helping them to improve in both Arabic and English. They hope one day to return to Syria ready to contribute to the rebuilding of their country.
This team is the spirit of the centre we are so fond of, and we want to support them in supporting their students. Because they volunteered without pay for a month this year, throughout this winter the staff’s families will have less money than usual for basic winter items at a time when other forms of aid for Syrians in Lebanon are already being reduced significantly. We would like to ensure that the teachers are compensated for each month worked this year, covering also the one-month gap in grant renewal. This staff has made it possible for their students’ education to continue, despite the challenges this meant for their own families.
*This pseudonym protects the privacy of the person named.
Any amount raised exceeding the staff’s compensation will be used for SB’s education and empowerment projects in Saida, Beirut, Brussels, and Arsal. The Arsal centre is in critical need this month as its refugee community has been affected by recent heavy storms, leaving hundreds of tents broken and covered in ice and snow. We have provided milk, blankets, fuel for heating, and tent covers to over 170 shelters in the storm’s aftermath and are currently raising funds for Mazout, a fuel used for heating. Twenty-two litres, the amount needed per shelter, costs 20 EUR. If you would like to ensure that your donation is provided to Arsal, you may donate separately through bank transfer or Paypal with the term “Arsal” as a reference:
Bank name: CBC Bank
Account holder: SB OverSeas
IBAN: BE42 7320 3907 1954
Avenue de la Belle Province 92, 1420 Belgium
This initiative is a part of SB’s winter #BrightenTheirFuture campaign (https://sboverseas.org), encouraging support for our programs with refugees in Brussels and Lebanon through and beyond this holiday season.
SB Overseas is dedicated to providing humanitarian aid and opportunity to refugees and victims of conflict through our education, empowerment, and emergency aid projects; and is registered as a nonprofit organization in Belgium. Our fundraiser is linked to SB Overseas’ bank account. For those in the US, donations to the SB Overseas US Fund through the King Baudouin Foundation United States’ page (https://kbfus.networkforgood.com/projects/35528-s-kbfus-funds-sb-overseas-be) are tax deductible.