ANERA offers basic literacy, math and vocational courses to refugee youth and other impoverished communities.

Below, we highlight three stories about Syrian refugees who benefited from non-formal education in Lebanon. The program is implemented in partnership with UNICEF and made possible through funding from German CooperationUK Aid, and the United States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Rania: Young Mother in Bhannine

Rania dropped out of school more than a decade ago, when she was in the sixth grade in Syria. Today, she’s a refugee in Bhannine, Lebanon. When she heard of ANERA’s literacy and math courses, her only concern was finding a safe space to leave her five-year-old daughter Amal.

Now, Rania and a group of young mothers are enjoying ANERA’s courses while their children are in daycare at the center.

“I heard about the classes from my neighbors and was so eager to join,” said Rania. “These classes gave me some hope that there’s something to look forward to, and it’s never too late to go back to school.”

Rania enrolls in ANERA's courses in non formal education in Lebanon while her daughter goes to day care.

Rania is able to attend ANERA’s courses because she can put her daughter in daycare at the school.

Abdo: Football Coach for Refugee Youth

Abdo fled from his hometown of Zabadani, Syria to Majdal Anjar in Bekaa, Lebanon. Initially a social sciences teacher, he couldn’t find any employment opportunities to support his younger sister and sick mom.

Abdo heard of ANERA’s skills training courses in Bekaa, particularly the courses for sports trainers. As a former trainer for the Shabab Al Zabadani football team in Syria, he applied to be one of the trainees.

Now, Abdo is one of the trainers who oversees ANERA’s sports learning courses in football in Bekaa. “I manage two training sessions per week. I enjoy this greatly on one hand and, on the other, the income I receive helps me provide for my family.”

Abdo learned coaching as part of ANERA's non-formal education in Lebanon program.

Abdo attends a football training session for his students.

Khaled: Computer Technician

Khaled, 18, dropped out of school in seventh grade. He regrets it now, and that’s why he started looking for alternative education options.

When Khaled heard about ANERA’s non-formal education courses in Lebanon, he was quick to enroll in courses on literacy, math and computer skills. Now Khaled works at a computer shop close to his home in Tripoli and makes around $50/week.

“After I dropped out of school I worked in many different jobs, but working in computer maintenance always interested me,” said Khaled. “Though I’ve started with some minor chores and clerical support, I believe this is an opportunity to change my future.”

Khaled stands in front of the computer shop where he works.

Khaled stands in front of the computer shop where he works.

In Gaza’s impoverished communities, schools rarely come equipped with necessities like libraries and science labs. So with fewer resources available, some teachers are getting creative in the classroom.

Take, for example, the children of Gaza’s YMCA preschool. They have turned their kitchen into a science lab. Through fun activities, they are learning concepts like weight, volume, color, relationships between objects, and the transformation of substances.

“Today we’re making fruit salad,” said teacher Ghada Hashwa. “Children are taking part in making healthy meals as part of an active learning initiative.”

Recently Ghada joined ANERA’s teacher training workshop, funded by Dubai Cares. She was one of 48 other teachers from nine preschools enrolled in the active learning program. The new method of teaching breaks the rigid routine of conventional learning.

Gaza preschools are now using active learning methods with the new renovations they received from ANERA.

A boy at the Gaza YMCA makes fruit salad to learn scientific concepts in a fun way.

Today’s activity at the YMCA uses the fun and delicious activity of making fruit salad. The first part of the session required students to identify different “mystery” fruits by reaching into a bag. Then they named the fruits and learned how to change their form—by making juice, or chopping them up into slices. Teacher Ghada ensures the safety of tools used for experimenting, as well as food cleanliness.

One student, Sarah, squeezed an orange through a juicer and poured it onto her healthy finished product, a fruit salad. “It’s like a rainbow,” she said giddily, jumping up and down.

Active Learning is an Essential Part of Early Childhood Education

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Children learn about size, shape, weight and color in a fun and engaging course of active learning.

Through active learning projects, children learn life skills through practice, experimentation, trial and error. “Traditional education does not allow any of this,” said Ghada. “Children are passive learners and receivers in the conventional classroom.” During an activity, Ghada can observe the children’s interaction and how they handle different challenges. “The kids follow the recipe, and if they face any problems, they need to figure out how to resolve it on their own.”

When children participate in preparing food, they develop skills like language, science, math and art. Learning is enriched with the vibrant colors of fruit, and the healthy content of their meals.
“In the kitchen, the students use all of their senses to learn,” said another teacher, Najla El Jadba. “They won’t forget what they did because it will be carved into their minds.”

Gaza Preschools Renovation Allow for Active Learning

Children play at the renovated playground in Gaza preschools.

Renovations to the playground include soft new turf, colorful new equipment and shade from the sun.

Both children and teachers are motivated to learn in a rich, safe and beautiful environment. Unfortunately, they did not always have access to high quality facilities. Before ANERA rehabilitated the preschool, it was a grey and gloomy space. Now kids are inspired to learn and explore in their classrooms and playground, painted in vibrant colors.

The renovation took place as part of ANERA’s ongoing early childhood development program in Palestine. ANERA painted all the rooms in bright colors and made upgrades to the bathrooms. Cracks in the walls were filled in and a new child-size water fountain was installed. The outdoor play areas got new green turf and a sunroof to protect children from the scorching sun. New playground equipment was also provided.

The new playground is an oasis for Gaza preschoolers.

The new playground is an oasis for Gaza preschoolers.

“The old playground was unsafe, with old, decaying tiles for floors,” said the preschool director Mona Tarazi. “The unshaded play area was a struggle during winter and summer. The toilets leaked sewage.” Mona smiles describing the changes. “We need to offer children in Gaza a healthy beginning from a young age. How lovely to set them up for a brighter, healthy future.”

With funding from Dubai Cares, ANERA was able to transform nine preschools throughout Gaza. In addition, the project involved training 48 teachers on basic child rights and protection and distributing reading bags and other educational resources to optimize teacher competency. Full-scale school renovations included equipping the facilities with new furniture to create child friendly spaces that are conducive to learning.

The ancient ruins of Baalbek are pictured on many a postcard from Lebanon. Just a short drive from Beirut, the city draws tourists from around the world. It’s nestled in the Bekaa Valley, a mountainous region known for its farms and vineyards.

But few people know that the city also hosts a large population of refugees. The Wavel refugee camp (also known as Al Jalil) lies on the outskirts of Baalbek. It was established in 1952 to house 8,000 Palestinian refugees. But over the decades, the lack of economic opportunity in the rural area meant that many migrated elsewhere to live and make a living. Now there are about 3,000 Palestinian refugees left at Wavel Camp.

Refugee Children Walk to School Without Warm Shoes

With the start of the Syrian civil war, the Bekaa region—and Wavel Camp in particular—saw an influx of Syrian refugees, as well as Palestinian refugees from Syria. In fact, the UNHCR reports that the Bekaa Valley hosts the most refugees in Lebanon, with around 35% of registered refugees residing there.

Refugee children walk through the alleys of Wavel camp to get to school

Children must walk through the wet alleys of Wavel camp to get to school.

Given the poor socioeconomic conditions of residents of Wavel Camp, most families cannot afford to buy basic winter clothing for their children. Without proper winter attire like boots, children have to walk to school through rain, snow and below-freezing temperatures. And since the camp is located in a remote rural area, rainwater forms dirty puddles in the streets where they walk and play. The lack of waterproof winter boots increases their risk of contracting infectious diseases and of absences from school.

TOMS Winter Boots Come to the Preschoolers at Wavel

ANERA delivered hundreds of high-quality TOMS winter boots this winter, so preschoolers at Wavel Camp can now keep their feet warm and dry this winter.

While the boots were distributed at Rawdat Alaqsa Preschool, four-year-old Abdel Hadi proudly hugged his new pair of TOMS. “Now the snow won’t get on my feet,” he said.

Refugee children like Abdel need warm winter boots in the Bekaa Valley.

“Now the snow won’t get on my feet,” said four-year-old Abdel Hadi.

In total, 440 preschoolers received new boots. Of these, more than 40% were Syrian refugees or Palestinians from Syria.

“The poor situation of families here is critical, for both the original Palestinian refugees and those that fled Syria recently,” said Karima Hassan, principal of Rawdat Alaqsa Preschool. “Parents often defer the $200 tuition, and we have many cases of students who cannot afford even a fraction of this amount,” she added. Annually around 25 students are admitted for free on a humanitarian basis.

At the Oldest Preschool in Wavel, Double Shifts for Refugee Children

Rawdat Alinaash Preschool is the oldest preschool in the camp, established in 1976. The preschool has added afternoon classes to accommodate preschoolers who are Palestinian refugees from Syria. Currently, a total of 105 students attend the afternoon classes, while 186 preschoolers from the initial refugees of Wavel attend the morning classes.

“Wavel Camp has welcomed around 630 families from Syria,” said Fatima Mosleh, principal of Rawdat Alinaash Preshcool. The arrival of so many new refugees has strained facilities and services in the camp, and has made it harder for parents to find work.

In these conditions, the distribution of TOMS Boots brings great relief to families in the camp. Now their children can walk, run and play safely and while keeping warm in the winter.

Refuge children in Wavel camp receive new TOMS boots.

When he was just 40-days-old, Sami El Khour was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. His mother had promptly taken him to a Gaza hospital when he began to show symptoms of physical discomfort, weakness and difficulty breathing. Their doctor confirmed that he had a rare, inherited disease that causes a buildup of glycogen within muscle cells and results in muscle weakness.

According to Dr. Maha Abu Fannana, Sami’s physician, “Without treatment, the disease can cause more health complications like hypotonia, heart problems and respiratory system failure. Sadly, these can ultimately lead to death.

Gaza Aid Limited, Medical Supplies Lacking

Sami’s family had already experienced tragedy when his two sisters were born with the disease and did not survive. The lack of proper testing and health care in Gaza meant that the illness could not be identified in time.

Moreover, once the disease is diagnosed, options for treatment are limited. “I was terrified that the tragedy would happen again,” said Sami’s mother, Sahar.

“The medicine Sami needs is extremely expensive and unavailable in Gaza,” explained Dr. Abu Fannana.

Sami receives Gaza medical aid for his disease.

Sami pictured with his family at their home in Gaza. Sami’s two older sisters were born with the same disease he has, and they did not survive.

The process of getting medical aid into Gaza is cumbersome due to the blockade, coupled with regular electricity outages.

First, local ANERA staff team up with doctors to calculate the exact number of doses needed for each patient. Then, very specific and thorough travel documents are prepared. Approval must be granted from numerous Israeli and Palestinian authorities before the medicine can start its journey. For Sami’s medicine, the vials must be kept refrigerated at all times. This means ANERA staff sometimes have to walk up in the middle of the night to collect the medicine from Erez Crossing and show up with a working refrigerator amid the regular and lengthy power cuts in Gaza.

But thankfully for Sami, ANERA delivers enough of the medicine with each shipment to cover his needs for a full year.

Now in Treatment, Sami Rides His Bike and Goes to School

Sami is now six years old and loves riding his bike and playing with his siblings. He likes to collect seashells at the beach. And like many kids, he has a pesky little brother whom he loves. “I love eating eggs and milk and soups too,” Sami added.

Thanks to Gaza aid, Sami can ride his bike.

Sami loves riding his bike! He also loves soup and eggs. And playing with his siblings!

In addition to the medicine he takes, Sami travels to Israel to get speech therapy sessions. His mother accompanies him and has learned how to practice speech lessons at home. She and her husband are now searching for a school for Sami that can accommodate his disease and help him mingle with other children.

“My only fear is waking up one day to the bad news that the medicine is not available,” said Sahar. “I hope this will never happen.”

In a cold house in Gaza, the Zarqa family stares into a crackling fire. The family had to light the fire, made of wood, to cope with the harsh and windy winter. It helps bring a little warmth to their frigid home.

Winter has put the family in a difficult situation. With little money, they had to choose between food and clothing. “We opted for food,” said Hayat, the mother. “But my kids have never had warm winter clothes.”

The Zarqa children are like many impoverished kids in Gaza. Without adequate warmth and winter clothing, children often fall ill with colds and the flu. Winter is a bleak season for these underprivileged families.

Winter in Gaza Brings Struggles to Neighbors

Ahmed is bundled up in new clothes inside his Gaza home. Without electricity, they rely on fires to keep warm inside.

Without electricity, Ahmed’s family relies on fires to keep warm.

A few blocks away, the Sakani family has their own share of troubles this winter. They struggle with daily power outages and a lack of any kind of heating. Like the Zarqa family, the Sakanis rely on a homemade fire to keep warm.

Laundry days are difficult for mother Samaher. On those days, her four children have to wait at home for their only clothes to dry. “We dry the clothes inside the house, but this increases the moisture inside and makes it even colder,” she said.

But today the four Sakani children are bundled in new sweaters and coats as they sit around a flickering flame. They received the new clothes as part of a winter clothing voucher program provided by ANERA this winter. “It’s an incredibly kind gesture from a big heart,” said Samaher.

The Sakani siblings are all happy with their colorful new clothes. Samaher, too, is delighted. The program surpassed her expectations, as she found a bounty of choices from the winter clothing store. “I thought it would be only a jacket and little else.”

When Samaher received the winter clothing voucher, she took her two daughters along with her to the store. Inside, Walla and Alaa excitedly rifled through different styles, choosing among their favorite colors and patterns.

“I used to pass by these store windows with sadness, because I could never afford buying anything,” said Samaher. “Our family functions by passing down clothes from older siblings to the younger ones. I sometimes buy secondhand sweaters and jackets, too.”

Alaa's family needs Gaza winter relief to get through this season.

Alaa poses with her new winter coat from ANERA’s voucher program.

Behind the Scenes: ANERA Staff Select the Best Items

Staff members at ANERA’s Gaza office ensured that all of the clothes in the voucher program were of the highest quality for the price. The program served 2,500 children from ages 4-12 with their own packages of warm winter clothing.

First, each recipient got a voucher with their name on it. Children and their parents redeemed their vouchers at a pre-selected store, stocked with various clothing items of different colors and styles.

The team spent the last several weeks acquiring winter items like jackets, hats, gloves, pajamas and scarves. They chose one store in Gaza City where families could redeem their vouchers. The store opened four warehouses across Gaza, in Gaza City, the North, El Shuka and Middle Gaza. This is the second year in a row that ANERA has supplied warm winter clothes for the children of Gaza.

Now Gaza families have a chance of withstanding the cold and wind.

Families pick through items in ANERA's Gaza winter relief selection.

Many of Gaza’s poorest families have to choose between eating or staying warm in winter.