“Education will help create communities of peace in a conflict region”
Children of the refugee camps in Lebanon who do not have access to schooling, are the main focus of the Christian NGO Together For the Family.
Protestante Digital · BEIRUT · 17 JUNE 2020 · 16:30 CET
According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, there are 70.8 million people worldwide forcibly displaced from their homes. About 26 million of them are refugees.
Lebanon is one of the countries that has received more people in recent years, especially from neighboring Syria, due to the war that started in the country in 2011. By 2018, the World Bank calculated that there were more than 1.4 million displaced people from different countries in Lebanon.
The Together For the Family project, created a few years ago by Izdihar Isaac, focuses on the Lebanese refugee camps. The organisation, which has the support of the Spanish evangelical NGO Alianza Solidaria, provides food and basic goods to hundreds of families who are trapped in the camps.
However, its focus is on the education of Syrian children who do not have access to schooling. Right now, more than one hundred boys and girls participate in the classes and courses offered by the entity through two centers located near the camps.
According to Alianza Solidaria, the interaction with the parents of the minors is also part of the project, so it is expected to reach 600 people.
On 20 June, World Refugee Day is celebrated worldwide, and the Together For The Family emphasises the great needs that the care of people in such a fragile and vulnerable situation, brings.
Question. Izdihar, tell us about your own history as a refugee and how you are following the situation in Syria.
Answer. My name is Izdihar Isaac. I was born in Syria and grew up in Jordan, in a Christian home. My father worked as a Baptist pastor for forty years in Jordan before returning to Syria, where he served for twelve more years and then went with the Lord.
In fact, I don't consider myself a 'formal' refugee. However, I have experienced and lived through conflicts, civil wars and terrorist attacks both in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Q. When did you decide to create Together For the Family and how does the organization work?
A. I grew up learning about and loving Christ, and my dream since I was a child was to serve God through the poor and rejected ones. It has been very hard to see many hard stories during the Syrian war, but that has given me a strong will to help those who suffer.
Although Together For the Family was created in 2010 to help Lebanese families meet today's challenges, with a special focus on children and women, the start of the Syrian war in 2011 caused us to shift our attention to the Syrian refugees.
We work to empower teenage girls and women to find a profession and to earn a living and feel their true worth. We also provide education for the special needs of children of Syrian refugee families, to whom we also offer medical and dental treatment.
Furthermore, in everything we do we present the love of Jesus in practical ways and share his message of salvation.
The project also provides food to all the children and their families. / Alianza Solidaria.
Q. How has the Covid-19 epidemic affected your work in the refugee camps and what have you done to face it?
A. In addition to raising awareness of the need to take precautions against the virus, we have conducted hand-washing drills with mothers and children. We have also distributed soap and disinfectant.
Our women and teenage girls from sewing school have made masks. The goal was to produce a thousand to distribute to all Syrian refugees and I am happy to say that we have achieved this goal and are now working to develop two thousand more masks.
When we visited the Syrian refugee camps, we realized that UNHCR barely supports them with essential goods. Refugees who could work in a factory or in agriculture are now confined to their tents, that's why Together For the Family decided to support them with a weekly food basket for each family.
We have been able to help a hundred families, but it is necessary to reach 400 more families. Most importantly, we are taking time to teach about God's sovereignty, providence, and love even in these exceptional times.
The coronavirus has slowed down our ministry, but we are now in the "new normal" situation according to the guidelines of the Ministry of Public Health.
Most of the children did not have acccess to schooling. / Alianza Solidaria.
Q. Are children the ones who suffer the most from the reality of the refugee camps?
A.: Lana is seven years old and lives near our center. She comes to visit us often, so one day I asked her why she didn't go to school. She replied that no school accepted her because, although she was born in Lebanon, her father could not register her in Syria and now she had no identity document, but her desire was to go to school and receive an education.
I was crying as I wondered why she couldn't live a normal life like other girls her age. We started our educational program for boys and girls like Lana, to make them smile. Now Lana is one of our best students and she hardly ever misses class.
Q. What is the Together For the Family educational project?
A. It has been said that "education is the passport to the future, because tomorrow belongs to those who are preparing for it today". We strive to provide education for children who are often neglected and have special needs.
Education will help create communities of peace in a region known for conflict and war. Planting the seeds of peace and reconciliation in the hearts of children is key to our mission.
The twelve members of our team are teaching their classes in the best possible way to a total of 145 students, in the two centers that we have near the refugee camps. This month we are going to have a graduation party for ten of them, who have completed the three years of learning with us.
Graduation day in one of the Together For the Familia centers. / Alianza Solidaria.
Q. How do the other organizations that work in the camps deal with the education of children?
A. Christian churches and NGOs are very effective and very helpful in this area. They do their best using the two loaves and the five fish to help thousands of people in Lebanon, regardless of their religion, even though more than 90% of those minors are Muslims.
Q. What is the process like for these families to get their refugee status?
A. This is a very complicated question. Many refugees have fled from neighboring Syria without crossing the borders properly and are not registered as refugees. These people cannot receive help from the United Nations or other international organizations.
Futhermore, whether they have refugee status or not, there is the problem of children born in Lebanon, and there are hundreds of thousands of them. They cannot be registered in Syria, so they are invisible, they do not exist in any registry.
Q. How can the people reading this interview help Together For Family in its work with children living in refugee camps in Lebanon?
A. First of all, praying. Please pray for the economic situation in Lebanon, for wisdom and patience for teachers and students, so that they may know the love of Christ.
We also need financial support to continue our educational ministry. Here I have to dedicate a warm and sincere thanks to Alianza Solidaria, which is supporting this ministry, specifically through its program "Towards a better future." You can visit the information on their website to learn more about how to help us.