I arrived in Beirut late at night, so the darkness didn’t allow me to get a real first impression of the city. However I was immediately impressed by the houses that seemed to be built in a tentacular way by growing on the top of the mountains. Thousands of lights shining across the mountainous landscape, gave me the impression that every single house was made out of candles. It was beautiful and I immediately felt the energy of the city that seems to never sleep. I then drove from Beirut to Saida, which is where I was going to be based for the next two months in order to take part to a humanitarian mission.
The mission was with SB overseas which is a NGO whose message is Education and Empowerment. The city of Saida, next to Beirut, is calmer and closer to the Middle East tradition than his sister Beirut, considered as the “petit Paris”. Saida is a small city and it very much feels like you are in a seaside resort. There is plenty on offer with a variety of nice restaurants, cafes and shops. In Saida, the locals are incredibly welcoming and you will be received like you are at home or like you are meeting an old friend. They take great pleasure in talking with you and if you dare it, you can even practice your Arabic with them!
Life then started in and around the shelter, beginning our mission in Saida. The word mission is very important here: as volunteers, we help give the children daily lessons in English, Maths and Science. Volunteers also try to run as many extra curricular activities as possible outside of the classroom, such as women’s fitness or art club. Volunteers also try to do different activities with the kids on the weekends like hiking, running, race participation or snow expeditions.
To finish, as a first impression I would say SB Overseas is doing a lot to try and help people in the shelter as much as possible. Life in Saida is pleasant and relaxing and we get used to it very quickly. As a volunteer based in Saida instead of Beirut, I feel very immersed in the Lebanese lifestyle. I am gaining a much richer experience by living in the center of the city and walking to the shelter each day. From this routine, I feel I am living like the local people around me.
Written by Lebanon Volunteer Nisrine