Children in Lebanon have only received an average of 11 weeks of schooling since October 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty in the country. Over one million refugees from Syria and Palestine now live in Lebanon as well, and when they do get the chance to attend school, they often lack the educational materials they need.
A collaboration between the Union of Relief and Development Associations and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is helping children in need in Lebanon be better prepared for school, reported the Church’s Middle East Newsroom.
The associations’ Back to School Project pays school fees and provides educational materials required by the schools, in order to support equal opportunities for all children and to reduce dropout rates.
The initial stage of the campaign provided backpacks filled with pencil boxes, rulers, notebooks, sharpeners and erasers to 1,500 elementary school children in northern Lebanon.
“Thankfully, through the Back to School Project, we were able to help and bring some happiness not only to the students, but also the parents,” said Manal Maghawri, fundraising coordinator for Union of Relief and Development Association.
Haya, a child in the Kolaj School for Syrian refugees, said, “I love this bag! I am very happy. This is the best gift I have gotten this year.”
Wa’ed, from Al Inmaa Syrian refugee camp, said, “This is the best day of my life! Now I will carry a backpack like my friends instead of a plastic bag.”
The Newsroom report said teachers in the schools and camps were also pleased. Sister Danielle, a teacher from Notre Dame school, said, “Today, you are bringing happiness into the hearts of the children and the adults during times where it is hard to find happiness.”
Mounir, a Palestinian refugee who lives in Naher Al Bared camp, was also grateful about what the project meant for her family.
“Projects like this are very important,” Mounir said. “I haven’t been able to buy my grandkids their needs after I shut down my bakery because of the economic crisis. Now my grandkids will be more motivated and happier to go to school.”
Welfare specialist for the Church’s Middle East/Africa North Area, Stacey Knight, said education is a high priority for the Church in the area.
“We are grateful to join with organizations like URDA to provide educational resources to children in need,” Knight said. “Not being able to attend school may limit opportunities for an entire generation, and we want to do everything we can to give these kids the resources they need to attend school and be successful.”