Service Programs

Youth Plant Trees and Hope in Northern Lebanon

Lebanon-2008-10-26-Youth Plant Trees and Hope in Northern Lebanon

A service-learning project on Oct 26, 2008, provided a rare opportunity for young Lebanese to see other parts of their own country. Hussein, a young Shia scout from southern Lebanon, commented: "The only chance I get to be with other religions is when I come with you."

"I'll be there in five minutes." The city mayor closed his cell phone and resumed the speech he had been giving. He was speaking to scouts and other young people from other parts of Lebanon: 25 youth who had traveled two and a half hours from Beirut to replant a burned-out forest area in northern Lebanon. As soon as the mayor had finished, he headed for the hill pass to negotiate the unblocking of a road that had been closed by frustrated villagers in a desperate effort to secure badly needed road repairs. Two hours later, we were able to move up to our destination.

At 1,650 meters, the view was impressive. Local scouts joined the 25 to plant 200 trees. For many, it was the first time they had planted a tree. Also for many, it was their first visit to this part of Lebanon. Meher, an Armenian Catholic scout leader, believes such projects provide rare opportunities for young Lebanese to see other parts of their own country. Hussein, a young Shia scout from the south, commented: "The only chance I get to be with other religions is when I come with you."

In a country which has had its fair share of division and violence, giving young people the chance to experience different locations and communities opens the way to a greater sense of national unity. It was the Lebanese army, trusted by all as impartial, that opened the hill pass road. And it was a Lebanese army leader who, when informed of a similar project, commented: "This is our standard in the army. You have to think of the nation first, before your own community. Projects like yours can help Lebanese youth regain a sense of national pride."

After the work was done, we had a chance to visit a small local church, Mar Chalita. The church had been rebuilt from its ruined state by one dedicated lady over 20 years. As Hussein prepared himself to offer his Muslim prayer in the church, the lady stopped him: "Wait a minute," she said. "Let me get you a prayer mat."

Other activities included visits to the city hall, we they met with local scouts, and a cultural center library for youth.

"Sometimes I feel very sad when I see our countryside neglected," Captain Aref, retired pilot and passionate campaigner for Lebanon's environment, said at the small closing ceremony. "But today I want to thank you for the good work you have done."

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