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Service Programs

Student Groups Reach Out During Lebanon's Weekend of Service

Beirut, Lebanon - Recording stories for blind children, planting olive trees for peace, singing songs with orphans, distributing flyers against drunk driving, playing games in a home for abandoned street children, and clearing a park area for a women’s center — these were some of the social projects which volunteers carried out during the Lebanon Youth Service Weekend November 14-16, 2008. Billed as a chance to “do something good together with many people and have a whole lot of fun doing it,” the weekend attracted several hundred volunteers from schools, universities, scout groups, and public-spirited families.

Billed as a chance to “do something good together with many people and have a whole lot of fun doing it,” the weekend attracted several hundred volunteers from schools, universities, scout groups, and public-spirited families. The service weekend was organized by the Universal Peace Federation in Lebanon in partnership with the national NGO, the Association of Volunteer Services, and entailed collaboration with civil society partners and with municipalities.

Starting its long-term service program in the spring of 2008, UPF-Lebanon launched several community projects earlier in the year, including a peace mural in southern Lebanon and a reforestation project in the north. The cluster of projects on the weekend of November 14 to 16 was the result of the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers.

The projects extended beyond the actual weekend according to needs and circumstance. In one example, university students organized a collection of eyewear and books on the campus of the Lebanese American University on November 18; other projects have been planned to take place in December before culminating in an exhibition and celebration of service for peace in mid-January.

The project team arranged for UPF Ambassadors for Peace to serve as project monitors, visiting the different projects, taking photographs, and writing reports. Most of what follows is taken directly from the reports of those monitors:

Clean-up Project at Nabatieh

One hundred and thirty scouts from different parts of Beirut traveled to the south Lebanon town of Nabatieh, which suffered during the war of 2006. There they were welcomed by the Women’s Progress Association for Motherhood, Children, and the Elderly, which runs a nursery, a kindergarten, and a community center for the elderly.

Project Monitor Natascha Schellen, reported: “The scouts split up, each group working on one part of the recreation area. Mostly they had to pick up trash and get rid of spiky weeds. I admired the way they worked together. They had a first aid kit to take care of scratches (there were a few). It was the first time most of them had done this kind of work.”

The municipality provided tools and help with heavy lifting. Mayor Mustafa Baderiddine told the scouts how proud he was of their work and talked about his dream to plant more trees there and develop an urban oasis.

Fun and Games with Homeless Children

Volunteers from the Jamhour School visited the Home of Hope, a residence for homeless children. It can shelter 150 children at a time, and 2,500 children have passed through its doors in the past nine years. Children are brought to the home by police and social workers after being neglected, abused, or exploited on the streets. Some of their parents, illegal aliens or destitute Lebanese, had turned them out on the streets to fend for themselves. The staff at the Home of Hope offer love, a safe place to live, and education.

The Jamhour students organized games including a sack race, filling bottles with sponges soaked in water, basketball, football, circle games, blindfold games, dancing, and singing. They also offered face painting. The mood was fun and playful, and everyone had a great time with the children.

"The children were some of the warmest and most loving children I have ever encountered," reported Project Monitor Priscilla Chahine. "They especially liked posing for photos and taking photos. It was hard to believe that anyone could turn these beautiful innocent children out onto the street."
 

Gifts and Songs for Children with Special Needs

Thirty students from the Aksar Kassardjian School went to the Zvartnots Center for mentally disadvantaged children. The students were greeted by Arexy Dabaghian, the center’s director, who told the 11- to 13-year-old visitors that about 40 persons participate in the center’s programs. They learn skills, receive medical care, and have access to psychologists, speech therapy, and physical therapy. They learn to make handcrafts, which they sell at a bazaar every December.

The students interacted with the people at the center, singing songs, eating cakes that the students had brought, and picking fruit together. "There was a lively atmosphere," reported the Project Monitor. "As some of the boys from both schools started to play football together, the director told me she was very happy with the project."
 

Volunteers Sing and Play with Orphans

Volunteers also partnered with the Hope Foundation to put on a play for a group of orphans. When they arrived, there was little light in the room due to one of the frequent power outages. Unfazed, Mr. Ghosn, the director, described the foundation’s work to provide assistance to needy people, both Muslims and Christians.

The 33 children, ages 5-12, sang the national anthem with great enthusiasm. Forming one big circle, they sang together while making actions with their hands. Then four volunteers performed a skit about respecting nature and not littering. After the skit, the children drew images of peace on white cardboard. There were pictures of families, hearts, and birds.

“It was great to see how involved the kids all got,” the Project Monitor reported, “and I admired the patience and energy of those volunteers who even taught the children some dancing. The electricity came back in the meantime."

Students Help Blind Children

Ninth-grade students at the Beirut Evangelical School for Girls and Boys spent a morning at the Lebanese School for the Blind.

Being told that that the blind students would benefit from listening to taped stories in English and Arabic, the ninth-graders enthusiastically recorded over 50 stories in both languages and presented them to the children, along with a plant for each child as a token of friendship. They chatted together, sang, and played games.

Back at their own school, the ninth graders began raising funds to buy some personal items the children need. Project Monitor Amal Ibrahim reported that their fervor has spread to all of the school’s secondary students.
 

Planting Olive Trees for Peace at a Cemetery

Two Palestinians, a doctor and a student, invited Palestinian children to join them in planting olive trees at the Shatilla cemetery, the site of a horrific massacre more than 25 years ago. This activity expressed hope for a better, more peaceful future, and the response was very enthusiastic. An official from the Palestinian embassy and the director of Amnesty International’s Lebanon office served as Project Monitors.
 

A Special Outing for 27 Girls

Inspired by the call to service, 35 students and several teachers at the high school in Sarafand, on the coast of southern Lebanon, decided to treat 27 orphan girls to a lunch and outing in the City Park. The girls enjoyed riding the carousels in the park. Japanese Project Monitors gave origami birds to the children and taught them how to make these bright little paper cranes. The high school volunteers also gave the orphans gifts.

 

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