Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘JUSOOR

Clown-me-in revolt in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Sabine Choucair with ClownMe In and 8 other taken in Hazmieh (Lebanon) ·

The awesome girls from ClownMe In @clown me in joined @clowns without borders on their tour in the Bekaa today  love u so much

The awesome girls from ClownMe In @clown me in joined @clowns without borders on their tour in the bekaa  today :) love u so much

A Clownish Revolt

We were waiting at the airport, where one of the clowns from Clowns Without Borders was picking up the stilts that had gotten lost in transit from his native Seattle to Lebanon.

Upon his triumphant return at the car loaded with clown props, accordions and red noses, he told us:

IMG_2258“At the security check I first pulled out a rope. The guard looked strangely and thought there was something wrong, so he told me to empty my pockets. I pulled out a couple of magic eggs and as the guard exclaimed “what are you doing?!” I could only quickly say “Ana Muharrij!” “I am a clown!” Which magically even made a smile appear on the Lebanese border guard’s face.”

It was in Jab Janine, in Bekaa valley, Lebanon, that we found out more about the true magic of these clowns.

At Jusoor’s new school (Jusoor or bridges is a local NGO providing education services to Syrian refugee children in Lebanon) –– children gathered at the improvised schoolyard with the fields of Bekaa and Mount Lebanon in the background.

It is in this valley that a big portion of the more than a million Syrian refugees, among which 400,000 children, are to be found.

IMG_1811

Once the clowns had set up, put their costumes on and their faces had turned into all the colors of the rainbow, the first children started streaming out into the schoolyard.

Hesitant at first, some of them started laughing and shaking hands with IMG_1817the clowns, who were introducing themselves in their particularly clownish ways – with a lot of missed handshakes and clumsy gestures.

Other children sat down in a large circle, still withdrawn waiting for what was to come.

 

As the show with magic glass balls, clownish musical parades, hoola hoops and of course some good old juggling unleashed, the hand clapping children led the way for their shy friends.

As the show progressed more and more children were engaged with the power of laughter, the wonders of magic and the opening of a whole new array of jokes and nonsense.

It was as if their little worlds of daily impediments, their trauma and mental blockades was turned upside down and dissipated, to make place for the universal wonders of life.

As the show came to an end with some particularly clumsy bowing, the clowns had to run for their lives, as the children all wanted a piece of them and formed groups around them, swallowing them with their handshakes and touches. Sabine, the one Lebanese clown of the international group of four, had to get rescued, raising her purple eyelashes to the blue sky of Bekaa as the children got a hold of her.

Against the power of guns, the art of laughter that these clowns brought to Bekaa, seems somewhat foolish to the hardened spectator or journalist. From Bekaa, where Hizbollah reigns and has broadened their sense of resistance against the ‘Zionist enemy’ to encompass the military aid of the Syrian regime, the tear painted on one of the clown’s faces, seems a drop on a hot plate, quick to dissipate.

To the Syrian children the tear was magical though and so the clown’s performance. It pulled them into a world in which the power of laughter and life is infinitely stronger than that of guns and they embraced it full-heartedly.

It was as if the Syrian Revolution – if only for a moment – had been high jacked not by Jihadist fighters, but by the magical power of this foolish bunch and their revived little spectators.

Clowns Without Borders is touring in Lebanon the coming two weeks to visit Syrian refugee children in different refugee camps throughout the country. The initiative part of the international Clowns Without Borders NGO, was brought to Lebanon by clown Sabine Choucair, founder of Lebanon based ‘Clown Me In’ and with financial support of Layan – a Kuwaiti aid organization for Syrian refugees.

Jusoor is one of the potential partners Syria What Will Be is seeking out for this summer. 

Syrian Refugees Education Program?

Syrians Forward Together (JUSOOR, Bridges)

We are writing to report back on a trip several members of the Jusoor Team made to Lebanon over the past few days in order to explore ways in which the global Syrian community could work with Syrian refugees.

Our primary focus during the visit was exploring ways to work with children and youth among the refugee population, and particularly around education programs

On March 17, 2013, Jusoor posted

Refugee Education Program Background

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This week’s heartbreaking UNICEF report, regarding the plight of Syrian refugee children which warns of  a “lost generation” of Syrian children, reiterates the urgency of pursuing such a program (pressfull report).  Take the time to read the full report.

What is Jusoor Looking to do? 

We would like to find opportunities for Syrians from around the world  to work with Syrian refugee children and youth.

Programs like these are core to Jusoor’s mission of engaging the global Syrian population in initiatives that will support the country’s development.

What we learned while in Lebanon?

During our visit, we met with 10 organizations working with Syrian children refugees in Lebanon, including international humanitarian organizations (Save the Children, War Child, UNICEF, USAID), local Lebanese philanthropic organizations and NGOs and Syrian refugee NGOs.

Here is what we learned around the challenges facing Syrian children and youth in Lebanon:

The government and multinational NGOs are trying to integrate the Syrian refugees into the Lebanese educational system.  This effort is fraught with challenges, including:

1. Language barriers:  Starting in middle school, the Lebanese curriculum is taught primarily in French or English, unlike the Syrian system which is taught in Arabic.

This is causing a huge challenge for middle school aged students to integrate. The global NGO community is working on providing language classes to as many Syrian students as possible to help integrate them into the system, but even with language support, there are high drop-out rates among Syrians in the Lebanese system and the international programs are only to support a very small proportion of the refugees.

2. Numbers:  Tragically, there are now an estimated 1 million Syrians in Lebanon which could mean more than 400,000 school aged children.  Meanwhile, there are only 300,000 Lebanese students in the school system.  As you can imagine, these numbers are going to overwhelm the Lebanese education system.

Meanwhile, there are several grassroots efforts springing up to set up Syrian curriculum schools for the refugees.

This effort is largely being led by the Syrian refugees themselves, though there is some assistance from Lebanese philanthropic organizations and some global NGOs.  The rationale for these schools is that they may have a better chance of getting students educated given the challenges of getting absorbed into the Lebanese system.

3. Overall, we were very impressed by the operations of these schools. They have hired former teachers from within the Syrian refugee population and have established partnerships with Lebanese private schools to use buildings in the afternoon.

  • The mere act of attending school is incredibly beneficial to these young Syrians; we observed them in the classroom and it was clear that having the chance to go to school allowed the children to begin to be children again.
  • The primary challenges these schools face are around funding.  The biggest challenge is transportation as many of the refugees live very far away from the schools.
  • There is great controversy over whether setting up these schools is the right thing to do.  On the one hand, they are not accredited by anyone and will likely not get accreditation. On the other hand, they are at least ensuring that our Syrian children remain literate and learn basic arithmetic.

There are several critical gaps and challenges facing Syrian youngsters in Lebanon including:

1. There is a real danger of illiteracy.

Given the high number of refugees cited above, many are not being reached by the education efforts that are being set up.  Anecdotally, several people we mentioned that children are forgetting how to read.

2. Older children are not being addressed in the solutions being put in place.

In particular, the global programs such as UNICEF are designed to support children up until 12 years of age.  That leaves the age group of 15 to 25 very underserved. In addition to a need for continued education among this group, there is also need for support with job placement.

3. Need for vocational training:  Several refugees are much better suited for vocational training than traditional education.  There are limited such opportunities in place.  Almost all of the refugee education funding is going to towards supporting traditional schooling.

What programs might make sense for Jusoor to pursue?

During our visit, we explored several potential programs for Jusoor to pursue.   In the short-term, we will most likely focus on the Community Center and the summer camps.  Stay tuned for details on how to get involved in these programs.

A. Community centers:  The leading program idea for Jusoor is to establish a community center to support youth between the ages of 15 and 25.  The idea would be to support them towards two specific objectives:

(1) job placement (we would particularly focus on finding them jobs with the global NGO organizations that are doing work with Syrian refugees) and

(2) reintegration into the education system by providing mentorship around scholarships and programs available to these students.  These community centers would be located nearby areas with high refugee concentrations.

B. Summer camps:  The idea would be to host a series of one week long camps for Syrian refugee children that would give them a chance to play and have fun as well as indirectly work on some of the social challenges we need to address (e.g., football / soccer matches that have children of different sects and religions playing together, theater, volunteer programs to encourage active citizenship).

C. Supporting one of the Syrian curriculum schools: The idea would be to send in volunteers to teach the English classes and to facilitate sports and recreational activities with the students. There is also important financial support that could benefit these schools, such as supporting transportation, buying books, and teacher (refugee) salaries.

What’s next? 

Next, Jusoor will focus on making one or a few of these programs a reality by establishing a business plan, entering into local partnerships, and launching some fundraising.  We’ll then open up the effort to volunteers among all of you.

Stay tuned for details on how you can get involved.  In the meantime, if you’d like to help us develop these programs please let us know.

We will also be sending our members a list of several programs they can volunteer with on their own if they are visiting Lebanon for the summer that support refugees in various ways.
We urgently need to find volunteers on the ground in Lebanon to play a key role in helping us build and execute these programs.  If you are based in Lebanon and would like to help us build these programs, please let us know.

Needless to say, our hearts were broken over the past week to see the state of Syrian refugee plight and especially those of our children and our hope for the country and its future.  We are working very hard to create programs for us each to get involved in supporting the education of young Syrians.
Sincerely,
The Jusoor Leadership Team


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