LEBANON, with a population of just 4.5 million people, is a temporary home to one million Syrian refugees, over half of which are children. Around 70% at present are not in school.
Global Care is a Christian children’s charity based in Coventry, UK, and has projects in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and Central America.
In partnership with the Lebanese agency, ‘Out of the Wilderness’, Global Care has opened a school for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and plans to open a second in September 2016.
Recently, film-maker and occasional photographer, James Norden, visited Global Care’s school in Lebanon to make a short film of their work. He took the photos in this article and describes what he saw:
“Global Care is a Christian charity which seeks to bring teaching and education to children in disadvantaged places across the world. We were visiting a ‘shack school’ they set up a few miles from the Syrian border.
There are about 80 families in the camp and families often have five or six children. When the refugees first arrived, they put up tents in the field. When the field flooded, the Lebanese authorities laid a large concrete base.
The refugees have built their homes, simple wooden structures overlaid with canvas, on this concrete floor. They certainly make the best out of a bad situation – they make a real effort to make their makeshift homes habitable and they are immaculate inside. Outside there are free-standing tanks for water and electricity is available.
The stench, however, is bad – both from livestock (chickens) and an open sewer runs along the outside of the camp. We visited as summer approached and everything was dry and dusty. Temperatures in Lebanon vary greatly, reaching over 40o in the summer and slipping to below freezing in the winter – and there is heavy snowfall.
There is a real sense of waiting amongst the refugees, an uncertainty about the future; they know they could be here, in the camp, for years and some carry a sense of hopelessness. The UN organises a lottery and nominated refugees can be sent to different countries – Spain or Canada for instance. Some families have been waiting in the camp for four or five years and their names have never come up in the lottery. It is a waiting game.
The Syrian hills are still visible from the camp and one woman wept as she spoke to us at the sadness of not being able to go home.
“What do you want to do when you grow up?” Rob, a Global Care team member, asked one of the young Syrian girls. “I want to go home”, was her quick reply.
Like the houses, the shack school is made of canvas laid over a wooden frame. It has two classrooms – one for younger children aged 6-9 years old; another for 9-12 year olds. School is open every morning from 9.00am-12:30pm. Global Care funds the salaries of two teachers, both who are Christians. They would love to increase school hours to afternoons too but more money is needed for this.
When we went into the classroom, the children were learning the Syrian national anthem. They were being taught the Syrian, not the Lebanese, curriculum – to give them identity as Syrian children. After school, the kids play around the houses in the camp.
As we drove to the capital, Beirut, it was hard to believe that there are over a million refugees in this country of only 5 million. Shelled buildings there are stark reminders of Lebanon’s past troubles but also encouragement that peace can be regained.
We were encouraged, too, how those in the camp expressed gratitude for what Global Care does as a charity. People are genuinely grateful for the humanitarian aid and the education of their children.
“We believe that every child has an intrinsic value and is unique and precious in the eyes of God.”
“Our practice is rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ. It is this faith that affects all we do; our working relationships, our interaction with, and care for, others. We aim to treat everyone with respect and work for justice and equality for children in all situations.” – Global Care website