Akkar in northern Lebanon has traditionally been one the country’s poorest regions. With poor public infrastructure and a lack of jobs, Akkar was among the least able to host refugees. Yet its proximity to the Syrian border has led to a massive influx in the region. Currently, about 34% of the region’s population is made up of refugees.

Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese youth in the region struggle to access basic services and have limited opportunity for community involvement.

ANERA’s refugee education program in Lebanon — funded by UNICEF — brings together youth from all backgrounds for classes that build community and help young people gain the skills they need to take control of their futures. Courses in life skills, basic math and literacy, vocational training, and good hygiene practices combine to benefit young people’s lives in practical, immediate and tangible ways. The timing and subjects of classes are based on the everyday reality the students face.

These photos are from ANERA’s sessions in Bhannine, a town near Tripoli.

In Photos: Teens in Lebanon Learn Math, Literacy and Life Skills

In this English class, 16 students are studying hard to improve their skills. The class is comprised of Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese youth.
In this class, refugee students are learning about personal health, the environment, water purification and waste sorting.
Asmahan is a Lebanese math teacher at the center for refugee education in Bhannine.
Abed is a 14-year-old Syrian refugee from Damascus. He's lived in Bhannine for four years and has had trouble going back to school.
14-year-old Abed, a Syrian refugee, helps Hassan, who has been out of school for four years, with his classwork.
15-year-old Hassan is not in school. He only attends ANERA's refugee education program courses.
Noor, a Lebanese teacher, uses interactive methods to teach English to her students in Bhannine.
Many teens in ANERA's refugee education program have been forced out of formal schooling. Some will not go back. This is the only education many will receive.

In this English class, 16 students are studying hard to improve their skills. The class is comprised of Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese youth.

In this class, students are learning about personal health, the environment, water purification and waste sorting.

Asmahan is a Lebanese math teacher at the center in Bhannine. Her student says, "Asmahan makes the classes really fun and shows us easy ways to learn."

Abed is a 14-year-old Syrian refugee from Damascus. He's lived in Bhannine for four years and has had trouble going back to school. "What I learn here helps me keep up in school. My math skills are great now!" he says.

14-year-old Abed, a Syrian refugee, helps Hassan, who has been out of school for four years, with his classwork.

Hassan is a 15-year-old Syrian teen who has been in Bhannine for four years. He is not in formal schooling, and gets his education solely from these courses held by ANERA. "I come here to learn what I missed in school," he says.

Noor, a Lebanese teacher, uses interactive methods to teach English to her students in Bhannine.

Many teens in ANERA's refugee education program have been forced out of formal schooling. Some will not go back. This is the only education they will receive.

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When Fares al-Ali, 16, left war-torn Syria two years ago, leaving everything behind, he thought that his life would be reduced to small jobs to help his family settle in Lebanon. That was before he found ANERA’s UNICEF-funded refugee education program that trains youths in practical job skills.

Fares fled the Syrian city of Aleppo in 2014 with eight members of his family. The Ali family settled in Fneidek, in the north Lebanon district of Akkar, one of the most deprived rural regions of the country.

“As soon as we arrived, I had to search for a job to help my father feed the family. I had to work day and night in a nearby restaurant. Sometimes I had to sleep there, because there was so much to do,” said Fares.

Fares Forges a Brighter Future in ANERA Classes

“When I heard about the training courses, I immediately signed up for the sessions on phone maintenance. I wanted to study again, improve my skills, and achieve my goals,” he added with enthusiasm.

“I am living my dream every day now. And I am inspired to pursue it until I can open a shop in Syria when the war ends.”

ANERA offers 130 courses, with the help of 33 partners. Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian boys and girls can enroll in a diverse range of studies, from hairdressing to electric wiring and sewing to first aid. There were 25 students – Syrian refugees and Lebanese teens – in the Fneidek training courses on phone maintenance.

“Fares is a brilliant and a clever student. He always wanted to learn more and never hesitated to ask questions”, said Mohammad Taleb, the phone repair instructor.

Mohammad teaches refugee youth in Lebanon to repair cell phones.

Mohammad Taleb, the phone repair instructor, says his students are eager to learn more.

Six graduates of the vocational training course opened a small phone repair shop in the area. ANERA is assisting with the rent for the first few months, while they get established.

“This industry does not require a lot of complicated, expensive equipment for repairs. Technicians can remove the damaged part of a cell phone and replace it with a new part,” explained Taleb.

“We can repair iPhone, Samsung and Sony phones here. We can handle screen, water and cosmetic damage as well as other functional repairs. We also replace batteries, of course,” said Fares, pointing to the different phone repair machines in the shop. “I am living my dream every day now. And I am inspired to pursue it until I can open a shop in Syria when the war ends.”

Refugee Youth Build Community in Vocational Classes

A few kilometers from Fneidek, in the village of Meshmesh, Ghalia Taleb talked proudly about training courses she leads to help Lebanese and Syrian refugee youth become professionals in hairdressing and cosmetology. During the courses, students also build confidence and make new friendships.

A refugee youth in Lebanon learns to become a beautician in this skills class.

Oum Hassan, a Palestinian woman, leads workshops in Beddawi camp on hairdressing and cosmetology.

“Students who completed the barber course organized an event for Meshmesh public school students. Thirty children got free haircuts! Everybody loved it,” said Ghalia, head of Akkar Beytouna.

“During the sessions, strong ties were also established between Lebanese and Syrian youths. Now we’re not seeing as much tension between the groups.”

“I consider myself a good barber now. But with time, I’m sure I’ll be excellent and the whole village will talk about my skills,” said Oudai Hussein, a 16-year-old Lebanese, who is still pursuing his studies at the public school of the village.

Most of the students are now practicing their hairdressing skills on family members, neighbors or friends. “I volunteer my services now, but soon I’ll start my permanent job,” says Oudai. “These courses have given me solid skills for finding a job.”

Riham al-Mohammad, a 17-year-old Syrian refugee from Homs, attended the training courses on personal beauty for women. She also practices her new skills on her friends and neighbors. “My parents were reluctant at first to allow me to join the courses. Now they are proud of me because I learned something new which will help me build a good future,” she said with a smile.

The month of Ramadan is meant to be a festive time spent with family and friends. Yet, in Gaza and Palestinian camps in Lebanon, the bleak situation clouds the joyous occasion. Many people are celebrating Ramadan without any food on the table.

ANERA responded with our annual distribution of food packages, containing healthy, locally-purchased food items. The parcels contain many items that are a rare treat for poor families and refugees. Foods like cheese, tuna and juice are especially popular. Staples like chickpeas, beans and cooking oil round out the supply.

Thanks to ANERA donors, we are distributing food packages to 1,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon – a majority of whom fled the violent crisis in Syria – and 1,100 of the most impoverished families in the Gaza neighborhoods of Rafah, Khan Younis, Deir El Balah and Beit Lahia. For most, this will be the only relief they receive this Ramadan.

“This Food Package is a Real Blessing”

Under a strong sun and rising temperatures, volunteers and staff members gathered around at the donation centers to help in distributing the food packages. These are some of the people who the ANERA community has brought joy to this Ramadan.

Wissam volunteers to distribute food packages in Beddawi camp, Lebanon
The contents of an ANERA food package in Gaza, 2016.
A family in Deir El Balah, Gaza picks up food packages.
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Somaia and her husband Diab are Palestinian refugees from Syria who have lived in Beddawi camp for four years.
Qamar and her children look through the contents of their food package in Gaza.
A child in Deir El Balah, Gaza puts her family's food packages on a makeshift cart to bring home.
With the items she got from her food package, Anaam will cook a special pasta dish using tomato paste.
Tamara wants to eat the beans from her family's food package.
Two women discuss how valuable the items in their food packages are. They're excited to have cooking oil and juice!
A family in Deir El Balah gathers around for iftar.
Khadiyja came to pick up her food package with her children. They fled Aleppo in 2014.
A refugee carries his family's food package through the streets of Beddawi camp.

"I love to help people around me, no matter how big or small my work is." Wissam is a 30-year-old Palestinian from Syria who lives in Bedawi camp. He volunteered as a food package distributor with the Najdeh Association, ANERA's partner in the camp.

Some of the contents of an ANERA food package spread across a solar cooker in Gaza. The nutritious items will help families prepare sohour and iftar meals.

A family in Deir El Balah, Gaza picks up food packages. Like many families in Gaza, they are still suffering because of destruction to infrastructure, factories and businesses that occurred during the 2014 war.

A worker at the Najdeh Association in Beddawi camp finds a family's name on the distribution list. Many of the families are Palestinian refugees from Syria.

Somaia and her husband Diab are Palestinian refugees from Syria who have lived in Beddawi camp for four years. With a family of 7 to feed, Somaia finds the food parcel really helpful.

Qamar and her children excitedly look through the items in their food package. Qamar says she'll cook pasta for iftar (the evening meal) and make cheese sandwiches for sohour (an early morning meal).

A child in Deir El Balah, Gaza puts her family's food packages on a makeshift cart to bring home.

With the items she received in her food package, Anaam will cook a special pasta dish using tomato paste.

Tamara is too young to endure a full day of fasting, but her mother is introducing her to fasting for a half day during Ramadan. Now, Tamara wants to eat beans from their food package. She's excited for the evening iftar because all of her family will gather around their dining table.

Two women discuss how valuable the items in their food packages are. They're excited to have cooking oil and juice!

A family in Deir El Balah gathers around for iftar. "I was so excited when I saw the items in our food packages," says grandmother Fayza Abu Amera. "We rarely get the chance to eat cheese and meat. I can't express how grateful I feel this Ramadan."

Khadiyja came to pick up her food package with her children. They fled Aleppo in 2014. She thanks the volunteer carrying the heavy parcel and says, "This food package is a really blessing."

A refugee carries his family's food package through the streets of Beddawi camp. "Palestinian refugees are struggling to survive in Lebanon. They do not have money and they can't be integrated into the job market," says Hanaa el-Inan at the Najdeh Association, which partnered with ANERA to distribute hundreds of food packages.

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The food package distribution was generously funded by ANERA donors, the Greater New Orleans Muslim Community, Zakat Foundation of America , and United Muslim Relief. 

Mohammad is a regular-looking 46-year-old Palestinian living in the West Bank. A father of four and husband to a wonderful and supportive wife, Mohammad is mild-mannered and polite. He sounds and looks like the average man. Except he is not.

For 10 years, Mohammad has been crippled by bouts of major depression which leave him unable to move or carry out the simplest tasks of everyday life.

He often was unable to socialize at the most basic level with family and friends, and many times could not go to work. When his children tried to strike up a conversation with him, he could find no motivation to talk at times and guilt plagued him because of it.

“I don’t know why it happened to me,” Mohammad said as he sat in his doctor’s office.

Depression in Palestine is Prevalent

According to Dr. Mahmud Sehwail, Mohammad’s physician, depression is quite prevalent among Palestinians due to the difficulties they face in the climate of conflict and occupation around them. “Our center [the Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture] has carried out research that showed about 25% of Palestinians suffer from depression and 38% of Palestinians display symptoms of depression,” said Dr. Sehwail. “Our research also revealed that 25% of the population suffer from PTSD.”

Research shows that 25% of Palestinians suffer from depression and 38% display symptoms of depression.

Like many Palestinians, Mohammad does his best to support his family and just to get on with his life. But he faces a lot of adversities, the biggest of which is his son’s imprisonment in an Israeli jail. He’s had to pay thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees and he suffered from constant worries about son’s well-being. Mohammad’s wife could see that he couldn’t cope with it and was suffering from major depression. She searched for ways to improve her husband’s life and health and keep their family together.

Mohammad gets the medicine he needs to help cope with depression, common among Palestinians.

Thanks to donations from the ANERA community, Mohammad gets the medicine he needs to help deal with depression.

She found Dr. Sehwail in Ramallah, where Mohammad got the help he needed. After examining and counseling Mohammad, the doctor prescribed Duloxetine to treat the depression.

Normally prohibitively expensive, the Duloxetine is free-of-charge to Mohammad and other patients throughout the West Bank, thanks to an ANERA delivery of the medicine that was generously donated by Direct Relief.  If Mohammad were to buy Duloxetine, it would cost him around $240 per month. For a father of four struggling to make ends meet, this is a huge amount of money that is better spent on bills and education fees, not medication.

Mohammad has a taste for life again. “My son was finally released from prison last month,” he said. “You can say that the train is back on track now. We are also hosting a [Ramadan] iftar this Thursday, the first we have had in a very long time. You are all welcome to join us!” Mohammad’s smile was proof of his inner peace rebuilding itself.

“But, please, if I may just add – I am very happy with this medicine. It would be a problem if it were no longer available. You have to keep delivering this medicine… ”

Learn more about ANERA’s in-kind program for donated medicines>>

ANERA’s early childhood development program is leading the way in setting standards for preschool education. In the past five years, ANERA has constructed 165 preschools across Palestine. The program also involves teacher training, music and arts curriculum, reading programs and book distribution, and community involvement in early education.

This brand new preschool in Al Majd, West Bank, includes colorful classrooms, safe play areas, toys and books, and much more. Prior to the construction, the class of 50 children went to school in an old, crumbling building unfit for early learners.

Watch Time Lapse of Palestine Preschool Construction

From a leveled patch of land to a haven for Palestinian children, the transformation is astounding. This preschool project was built with funds by the Tarazi family in honor of Bahjat J. Tarazi.