Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Syrian uprising and the start of the devastating war. Now there are 4.9 million displaced Syrians within the country and scattered throughout the region. An estimated 1.5 million of them have taken refuge in neighboring Lebanon, where they are struggling to find a place in the economy amid rising poverty and unemployment rates.

In response to this crisis, ANERA is reaching refugees and impoverished host communities through a variety of job skills training courses that boost employability among the most vulnerable segments of the population.

Agriculture Courses for Youth in a Rural Landscape

The majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in the Bekaa Valley and the north, according to the UNHCR. These regions are also the most rural, with about 70% of all arable land in Lebanon. There is a great need for more agricultural workers, yet only 10% of local youth learn how to farm the land, choosing other business skills instead.

ANERA recognizes that the influx of refugees from Syria represents a great opportunity for Lebanese farmers. And farming is, in turn, a great opportunity for the refugees.

“Agriculture is one of the few sectors that is accessible to Syrians, according to Lebanese government regulations,” said Nisrine Makkouk, ANERA’s education program manager in Lebanon. “So we paid special attention to including Syrian refugee youth in new agriculture classes we’re introducing to our job skills training options.”

The pilot courses cover beekeeping, livestock care and dairy production. They reached a total of 57 youth, girls and boys, Syrian and Lebanese.

In Khirbet Roha, West Bekaa, 16 youth enrolled in the livestock care class. Right after completing the course, about half of the youth participants found jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.

Agriculture is one of only a few sectors in which Syrians are allowed to work in Lebanon, so job training in agriculture is highly valued.

Agriculture is one of only a few sectors in which Syrians are allowed to work in Lebanon, so job training in agriculture is highly valued.

Syrian and Lebanese Youth Put Skills to Use

Sixteen-year-old Mohammad fled Syria with his mom and five younger siblings and settled in Khirbet Roha. Due to the death of his father and his mother’s illness, Mohammad is now the only breadwinner of the family.

“We used to have a small piece of land back home in Syria, and my uncle had a farm, but I never got the chance to learn more about caring for livestock until I joined this course,” Mohammad said. His hard work and enthusiasm impressed the trainer, who offered him a job at his own farm after he completed the training course.

Donia, a 22-year-old Lebanese woman, participated in the livestock care class offered in her hometown of Meshmesh. “Chicken farming skills are in demand in the village,” said Donia. “With my new knowledge I can start up a small business from my own house.”

To congratulate graduates of the livestock and beekeeping courses, ANERA sent graduation kits of beehives and chicken coops. Now the youth have the tools and know-how they need to start building a livelihood and a small business of their own.

The five pilot courses were designed to be short, specific, and directly linked to market needs. Initial findings at the end of the courses indicate that there is a need for similar ways to attract youth to the agriculture sector and that youth are interested in learning more about it.

In total, 6,777 out-of-school youth participated in the job skills courses offered last year. They covered diverse topics including agriculture, graphic design, cosmetology, floor tiling, computer skills, tailoring and advertising.

The program is implemented in partnership with UNICEF and with funding from UK Aid, German Cooperation and the United States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Abu Hossam and Om Hossam opened the Gaza family clinic in their village of Wadi Salqa.

Gaza Family Clinic: We Never Close Our Doors to Anyone

March 13th, 2017 by Mariele Ventrice

It all began when Mohamad Abu Moghasib and his wife decided to give back to their neighbors in the impoverished Gaza village of Wadi Salqa. The couple are pharmaceutical experts who once worked at clinics in Saudi Arabia. After years of service abroad, they returned to their home village with knowledge and expertise.

In 2003, they started using a space in their house as a neighborhood clinic. It has been running now for over a decade. They offer a variety of services to the poor villagers of Wadi Salqa.

“We receive desperate patients day and night,” said Mohamed, also known as Abu Hossam. “We never close our doors to anyone. We operate 24 hours a day and have an unlimited number of patients.”

Mohamed and his wife Om Hossam are famous and beloved in their village. They are always welcomed by their neighbors who trust in their care. “During emergencies, we offer first aid and primary care. Villagers would need to wait almost an hour to get transportation to other clinics,” said Om Hossam.

A History of Family Service

Abu Hossam explains to Madline how to administer the treatment to her daughter.

Dedication runs in the family history. Om Hossam smiles as she tells the story of her name, Maezooza, meaning “the most cherished.” She is the youngest of seven daughters and her father chose this particular name to break the stigma that favors boys over girls. “My father gave me his bravery and persistence,” she said.

The couple also treats animals when they can. Om Hossam recalls one day when a woman came crying for help. Her goat had broken his leg. “We treated the fracture and wrapped the goat’s leg with gauze and bandages,” said Om Hossam.

This winter, the couple collected warm clothing like coats, hats and gloves. After cleaning and ironing each garment, they donated them to less fortunate families who struggle in Gaza’s cold winter.

Winter’s Challenges in Wadi Salqa

Gaza family clinic treats Lama for a fever.

Madline and her daughter Lama came to the family clinic for help when Lama’s fever worsened.

Like many other places in the winter, wind and cold bring sickness Gaza. Children are most commonly afflicted. Madline and her 8-year-old daughter Lama came to the family clinic after a long, sleepless night. Lama had a fever, a runny nose, a hoarse cough and inflamed tonsils. After a check up, the little girl was prescribed an antibiotic to help her heal.

This antibiotic covers a broad range of infections caused by bacteria. It treats  a broad range of infections, from the ear to the urinary tract. “These infections are so frequent in Wadi Salqa. Children in particular are susceptible to germs. With the temperature dropping, we see many cases like Lama’s,” said Abu Hossam.

Before Madline sets off for home among the green groves of olives and oranges, Abu Hossam explains to her how to use the medicine properly.

“We call them the parents of the village,” said Madline as her daughter grips her hand. “I hope my child gets better soon, so she can play and have fun with her other siblings.”

Direct Relief generously donated the antibiotics, which ANERA shipped and delivered to 16 clinics and hospitals with help from Zakat Foundation.

Since the start of the Syrian crisis, ANERA has expanded its sports for development program to engage vulnerable refugee youth residing in Lebanon. Recently, the program caught the attention of an Arab reality TV show, The Victorious, which aims to find serious athletic talent in the informal tent camps where many refugees live.

The Victorious strives to give Arab youth a chance to enhance their football skills at an international level. These opportunities are hard to come by for Syrian refugee youth. For this reason, Different Productions teamed up with ANERA to work on the TV show. Together, the partnership aims to give a fair chance to displaced Syrian youth residing in Lebanon.

As part of the show, a jury committee of professional football players hand-selected the best players from ANERA’s program. The committee included internationally renowned athletes like former FC Real Madrid player Michel Salgado, the famous Arab football player, Jihad Al Montasser, and many others. They visited the Bekaa Valley, where many displaced Syrians reside, to shortlist the most skilled youth. In the end they selected three players to participate in the TV show, among the 200 youth enrolled in ANERA’s football courses.

The three winners were excited to get coached by professionals to sharpen their skills and open up opportunities to become professionals themselves. Here is a glimpse at what this means for the three winners.

Abdel Hakim was chosen for The Victorious program.

Abdel Hakim dribbles his soccer ball through the camp where he lives.

Abdel Hakim Al Dasher

The 21-year-old youth was studying his for his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in his hometown, Aleppo, when the Syrian conflict erupted. Soon he had to flee to Lebanon. Since he couldn’t afford to pursue his studies, he worked in agriculture, private tutoring, and other odd jobs to make a living. But the burdens on Abdel Hakim are difficult to bear, given that he’s a father of two now, and he pays monthly rent for the tent where he resides.

“Sports is the space where I can let go of all the negative emotions I’ve experienced as a result of what I’ve been through,” said Abdel Hakim. “I’ve been playing football since I was 6, and selecting me today gave me some hope for a better future for me and my family.”

Abdel Hakim andMahmoud are two of the players chosen to play on The Victorious tv program.

Abdel Hakim (left) and Mahmoud (right)were both chosen to appear on the The Victorious to show-off their talent.

Mahmoud Abdallah

Mahmoud fled with his family to Lebanon back in 2012. In the informal tented settlement where he lives, he gathered a group of youth to start a football team. Later on, Mahmoud heard about the ANERA’s sports courses. He quickly joined, excited to get started.

“I work in harvesting now since it’s the only work I could find here,” said Mahmoud. “I am so glad that my friend Anas and I were selected. We both played for the same team in our tented settlement in Bekaa.”

Anas was chosen to appear on the The Victorious after winning the football competition.

Anas poses in front of his temporary home in Delhimyye tent settlement.

Anas Askar

Mahmoud’s 18-year-old teammate fled to Lebanon back in 2013 from Aleppo, Syria. As the oldest son of his family, he’s the only breadwinner for his mom and four siblings, since his father passed away. Anas works in wall-painting on an irregular basis, whenever he finds an opportunity.

“Anas was ranked first in his class, but he had to drop out in grade seven. It’s a waste that he’s working in wall painting now,” said his mother. Anas added, “I’ve always dreamed of joining a European club and this opportunity made me believe that this big dream can come true, despite the harsh conditions we live in.”

Big Dreams for Sports Programs in Lebanon

ANERA has been implementing the youth sports program in Lebanon since 2010. Sports are used as a cross-cutting program encapsulating the values of education, social integration, dialogue, conflict mitigation and public health awareness.

The sports courses target youth between the ages of 14-24 of different nationalities, including Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians. The most popular sports course is football, involving 47% of all participants in the sports program. In total, 3,840 youth participated in a variety of sports courses offered last year.

Syrian kids in Delhimyye settlement play with the soccer ball.

Even for those kids who will not appear on television, sports are a great motivator and stress-reliever.

This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the bold spirit and vast achievements of Palestinian women and female refugees. Women don’t always have adequate support in their societies, but when they are given opportunities, they thrive and improve the lives of those around them.

Meet Fadwa, one Palestinian woman who’s making a big difference in her small West Bank town of Al Tireh. She’s one of 600 women to complete ANERA’s teacher training course. As a preschool teacher, she has an influence on children during the years that are most important to development. But beyond the impact she has on children, she’s a confident role model for other women in her society who have so much to give.

Watch: “The Most Important Thing I Can Offer is Self-Confidence”

In the northern village of Khirbet Daoud, not far from the Lebanese-Syrian border, lives Maamoun with his wife and two daughters. Maamoun is a Syrian farmer who owned a chicken farm business back in his hometown of Homs, Syria. Now his family lives in an informal tented settlement that used to be a farm of hen coops. It now accommodates 500 Syrian refugee families.

“Four years ago, a stray bullet hit me during clashes in Homs, and I was physically disabled,” Maamoun said. “As my case was very critical, the Red Cross transferred me to Lebanon and then my family followed.”

Syrian refugee families like Maamoun's struggle in Lebanon.

Maamoun was left disabled by a stray bullet in Syria. Now in Lebanon, his family lives in a tent camp near the Syrian border.

This February, Maamoun received a winter humanitarian relief package that included clothes, shoes and activity books for his two daughters, Walaa and Zahraa. The kit also included a rechargeable battery light, which is much needed during the long winter nights and frequent electricity cut offs where they live.

“It’s been a long time since I got new clothes. I’m so happy, and they’re my favorite color too, pink,” said Walaa shyly.

Thanks to United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), a total of 1,710 winter kits were distributed – through ANERA and its local partners – to vulnerable Syrian refugee families in five different villages near the Lebanese-Syrian borders in the Wadi Khaled region.

“My health condition makes it very hard for me to move and work, and my wife cannot work either as she has to look after the girls,” said Maamoun. The family has no source of income and relies on support from neighboring refugee families and local philanthropists. “I am very grateful for these kits,” said Maamoun. “The winter kits brought smiles to my daughters at a time we were all losing hope.”

Syrian refugee families in Lebanon receive winter kits and children's coloring books.

Wala’a and Zahra’a got pink sweaters (their favorite color) and coloring books from the distribution.

Helping Syrian Refugee Families in Lebanon’s Poorest Region

The Akkar governorate, where the distribution took place, is known to be one of the most deprived regions in Lebanon. According to UNOCHA, there are more than 266,000 Syrian refugees there, and the area hosts about 440 informal tent settlements. The winter kit distribution took place in five localities: Khirbet Daoud, Berkayel, Aamayer, Mashta Hasan, and Mashta Hammoud, all of which marked as the ‘most vulnerable’ localities in the region by UNHCR.

In order to spread awareness among refugees in Lebanon on healthy practices during winter, an activity book was passed to young children along with the distribution. The illustrated activity book provides simple messages on how to stay warm and avoid illnesses during winter.

Khreibet Daoud, where Maamoun resides, is known for its very cold winter, as is also the case in neighboring villages. This year, several snow storms hit the region, making the winter assistance they received a cherished gift for the family.

500 Syrian refugee families live in this tent camp.

This is the tent camp where Maamoun and his family live, along with 500 other refugee families.