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Service Programs

Fun and Games with Homeless Children in Beirut

During the Youth Service Weekend, a group of volunteers from the Jamhour School in Greater Beirut visited the Home of Hope, which is a place of residence for any and all homeless children on the streets of Lebanon. Established in 1999 by John Eter, the Home of Hope has the capacity to shelter 150 children at a time, and 2,500 children have passed through its doors in the past nine years

 

SINGING WITH ORPHANS AND PERFORMING AN ENVIRONMENTAL PLAY

 

Currently, 39 children aged 3 through 18 are residing there (most of whom are under age 10). They have three teachers who teach them all subjects and a house mother and house father who live in the same building with the children. The work is funded mainly by NGOs and churches; despite promises of government funding, requests by the Home of Hope for actual state funding have been met with reluctance because a large majority of the children come from migrant background and are not Lebanese.

The children are brought to the home by police and social workers. Oftentimes they have been abused, neglected, sexually harassed, and exploited on the streets. They are of very poor and illiterate backgrounds. Many recount that their parents — illegal aliens or destitute Lebanese — have turned them out on the streets to fend for themselves any way they can by begging, stealing, or prostituting themselves.

The staff at the home try their best to help these innocent victims by striving to restore their dignity and self respect. They provide them with genuine love and a safe place to live. They also provide basic education for them in an effort to help them integrate back into the community as responsible citizens.

The volunteers who visited the Home of Hope on November 15, were greeted warmly by one of their staff, Rita. Following an introduction to the facility’s concept, she gave a tour including education and recreation rooms and sleeping quarters (ten to a room). A benefactor from the United Arab Emirates had offered funding to help renovate the Home, and as a result, the place is currently under renovation.

After that the volunteers went to the basketball court to visit and play with the children. The wonderful girls from Jamhour School had organized some games for the children to play — a sack race using clean garbage bags, filling bottles with sponges soaked in water, basketball and 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 Priscilla Chahine, a UPF Ambassador for Peace serving as a Project Monitor. "They had bright smiles and lovingly accepted our presence there. They were so happy to play with us and especially liked taking pictures (both posing for them and taking the camera and shooting it themselves). It was quite evident that they are starving for love and kind affection, and the signs of emotional problems were evident in some of the children. It was hard for all of the volunteers from Jamhour School and me to believe that anyone could turn these beautiful innocent children out onto the street to fend for themselves."

The Director, Mr. John Eter, and his wife, adopted one of the children who was brought to his Home; she has been living as part of his family for the last eight years. He now has a bigger vision, which is to create a self-sustaining home. His plan was to have homeless elderly people, abused women, and the homeless children live all together in a complex. The elderly would act as grandparents to the children, the abused women would act as mothers to the children, and the children would have a “family.”

"In my opinion," Priscilla Chahine concluded, "everyone should help support this effort, as most of us say 'haram' when we see a small child or elderly person on the streets. We give them money and pray for them, but deep in all of our hearts we wish that someone would do something to really help those poor people. Well this man has done something but his Home is in jeopardy. They don’t have enough money to keep going. I think we should do all we can to help them in this great effort. These abandoned, innocent children are worth the effort."

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