Lamis' life changes after taking part in life skills training

Monday 17 March 2014

Lamis, 16 years old, left school when she was fourteen because her family couldn’t afford to keep her in education. After two years of working in a junior position in a beauty salon, she signed up for a Save the Children life skills training, which was part of a community project which targeted both Lebanese and Syrian youth. As part of Save the Children’s integrated youth approach, the Food Security and Livelihoods sector ran the initiative, with support from the Child Protection team to help foster social cohesion and build relationships between the Syrian refugee community and the Lebanese host community. For three months, the youth received life skills training, and training in community research skills, project planning and budgeting, before designing and implementing their own project to meet an identified need in the community.  Their community project focused on conservation; they planted more than two hundred and fifty trees in the town where Lamis lives.

 Lamis’ story in her own words:

 “I couldn’t continue studying because my parents couldn’t afford to keep sending me to school. I had to work and help my family so I started working in a beauty salon about two years ago. When I knew about this workshop I was excited to be part of it because they told me that I will be trained to run my own business and this is what I am trying to do after working in a beauty salon; I think I am ready to start my own business and this is the best opportunity.

 The workshop was great; it was life changing. In addition to the training itself I had the chance to meet new people from different backgrounds; for me it was really interesting meeting new people with different culture and traditions. Honestly I didn’t have the chance to talk to Syrian refugees before and I had my own pre-judgments but after this workshop everything has changed. Having friends from different communities is great; I am learning lots of things from them and they are doing the same too. I have learnt how to see things from different perspective; now I can understand their point of view and I am sure that we can work together on so many levels.     

 This project was one of the best things I did in my life. We had so much fun and at the time I am so proud of what we did. It was a great experience and I am so happy that I was part of it.”

Context and background

For three years the conflict in Syria has devastated the lives of millions of Syrians and prompted the biggest exodus of refugees in recent history. There are an estimated 9.3 million people inside Syria in desperate need of assistance, including more than 6 million who have been displaced by the crisis. A further 2.5 million people have fled to neighbouring countries.

Since the start of the crisis more than a million Syrian refugees have arrived in Lebanon, a tiny country with a population of just over 4 million. More than half a million of these are children.

An estimated 200,000 of the 960,000 registered refugees in Lebanon are teenagers and youth. Many thousands have suffered multiple displacements, and have lost family, friends and their community through death, injury and displacement as a result of the conflict.

At an age when they are particularly vulnerable, they have had their lives turned upside down and arrive in Lebanon traumatised, bereaved, with the social fabric of the society that nurtured them ripped asunder. They have little chance of finishing their education, and even less of going on to third level education or vocational training. Facing a future that seems stripped of hope and opportunity, this group is particularly vulnerable to criminalization, radicalization and militarization as they seek ways to fill the void created by a lack of education and opportunity, while feeling under pressure to help support their families.

Save the Children’s integrated youth approach provides older children with life skills building and community engagement opportunities to help ensure refugee and vulnerable Lebanese youth who are facing similar challenges in terms of education and lack of opportunity are able to play a proactive role in their societies.  This also helps foster social cohesion and understanding between the two communities and forge friendship and tolerance between their youth.

General Context and Background

As the numbers of refugees in Lebanon continues to increase, the demand on public services like education, health, water, housing, electricity and sanitation has reached an unsustainable level.

Having escaped the conflict, for many refugees the reality of life in Lebanon is fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. Families have used up any savings and assets they had in the first months and years of the crisis and are struggling to cope.  The rental market is saturated, prices have skyrocketed and most families cannot afford to rent even the most basic accommodation.

Increasingly, they are looking for makeshift shelter in the informal settlements and unfinished buildings that are now home to more than 250,000 refugees across Lebanon. Conditions in informal settlements are abysmal and provide little protection from the damp and the cold in the winter or the blistering heat in the summer months. Most of the settlements lack even the most basic water and sanitation services. Many families have seen themselves fall into significant debt as they try to feed their families. Being able to afford even the most basic items and services has become impossible.

Save the Children has undergone a massive scale up to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable refugees, delivering an integrated response and providing almost 210,000 beneficiaries with shelter, education, child protection, FSL and health services. We have supported 11,000 families in the run up to winter, by either reinforcing current shelters in informal settlements or providing newly arrived families with a full shelter kit.

Save the Children has been rehabilitating unfinished buildings and providing shelter support to locations across Lebanon since the start of our response. Through our education programmes 40,000 children are able to access some form of schooling, either within schools or in non-formal settings.  Our psychosocial support centres give children safe places to play and have fun.

During the winter months we provide additional cash payments to cover the costs of stoves, fuel and winter clothing. We support vulnerable families with cash support, and cash for work interventions as well as non-food items like cooking equipment, mattresses and blankets.

We have also been providing free pediatric and reproductive health consultations and our community health workers carry out door to door visits raising awareness on hygiene issues, malnutrition and key health messages.

 Ahmad Baroudi/ Save the Children Lamis and her new Syrian friends plant pine trees as part of  a Save the Children project to

help forge friendship and understanding between Syrian and Lebanese youth.