Day 1: Wednesday 17 July, 2019
While walking off the bus Wednesday morning, I felt a rush of joy and excitement. It was my first time back in the Bekaa Valley since 2017 and I could not believe how incredibly lucky I was to be able to teach again in this area. The Bekaa Valley—referred to as the “gateway between Syria and Lebanon”—is host to approximately 35.5% of Lebanon’s Syrian refugee population. They comprise approximately 50% of the population in Bekaa, which is significantly higher than other areas in Lebanon. During the school year, Jusoor’s Jeb Jannine and Jarahieh schools serve over 800 refugee children living in the Middle and West Bekaa area. Volunteers will be leading activities in science, arts, peace building, and sports classes at both of these schools over the next three weeks.
Before starting our teaching journey, all volunteers have to complete a three-day orientation. The first day of orientation was filled with icebreakers, manouche, and important lessons on teaching, culture, and health.
As I sat in orientation listening to Ms. Suha Tutunji describe Jusoor’s mission and programs, I could not help but think how special this organization is. At the heart of Jusoor’s Refugee Education Program is the principle of community care. They provide more than just a school for their students—they provide a safe, encouraging environment for the students to blossom. They understand deeply the complexities and responsibilities associated with schooling in vulnerable communities. They provide psychosocial support for not only the students but for their families as well; they operate in two shifts so that students who have to work or be elsewhere do not fall behind; and they, most importantly, put the student first. Volunteers, teachers, and administrators alike are all constantly reminding and reminded of the importance of putting the students’ needs (mentally, emotionally, physically, and academically) above all else. Rather than shy away from difficult (and often unanswerable) questions about identity, belonging, and rights, they embrace them through their identity and culture program. Jusoor makes sure that each child’s voice is heard and valued. They truly work with, not for, refugee communities to provide a safe and intentional place of learning. Jusoor is not just trying to get these students through to the next level of their education, but set them up as lifelong learners and upstanding community members. Their emphasis on teamwork, peace building, and cooperation is evidence of this.
And its for these reasons that I am so honored to even be a small part of Jusoor’s mission. I’ve already learned so much in just one day and I am so, so excited for the next three weeks.