As Saida Center observes its first anniversary, SB OverSeas announces its success and reports that it will renew and expand programs in Saida in 2018.
Saida Center, SB’s newest and largest project in Lebanon, opened one year ago at Ouzai shelter, an unfinished and abandoned complex that houses 1,500 Syrian refugees. About 320 children are registered with SB in Saida, many of whom lived in harsh conditions at Ouzai for five years or more without consistent access to education. Now, these children and their families are receiving a psychosocial and participative education at the SB center, which holds three shifts of school daily Monday through Friday, accommodating for the number of enrolled students and their varied levels and ages.
“Our students have impressed us with their eagerness to learn and consistent progress in all subjects,” said Kevin Charbel, Project Manager in Saida. “Their success is a tribute to their great potential and hard work, the commitment and talent of our staff and volunteers, the support of the Ouzai community and the help of our donors and partners.”
Children and youth in Saida are attending Arabic, English, math, science and general knowledge classes; awareness and wellness sessions led by SB’s psychologist; art and sport activities; and homework support sessions designed to help students catch up in their classes at public school. Saida Center also hosts a thriving Women’s Empowerment program, offering sewing, Arabic, English and fitness classes. For men, in addition to holding English classes, SB has collaborated with Institut Européen de Coopération et de Développement (IECD) to provide a new vocational training in painting through IECD’s Semeurs d’Avenir program. In a few weeks, 20 men will earn a certificate endorsing their skills to potential employers and clients.
SB also partnered with German NGO Green Helmets (Grünhelme) in the fall of 2017 to winterize the shelter and improve safety and sanitation; and soon afterward, January 2018 marked the first month of Saida’s Arabic language program for international volunteers.
“We began last year with a small team and difficult circumstances, but with a hope to see our children beat the odds”, said Charbel, “and today, children who weren’t reading a year ago are reading; children who weren’t laughing a year ago are laughing. With literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills, our children are at less risk of child marriage, child labor, and exploitation.
The center is providing employment for residents at Ouzai and has hosted over 40 local and international volunteers. And yet, in many ways, our work has just begun. Keeping the center open depends on continued focus, effort and support, and we will keep working to help the families in Saida gain ground.”