“This degree has become really important for me. As a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, I feel protected by my qualifications”, explains Amjad Khamis, standing proudly in front of his final year project.
He shows curious visitors how to switch on different light bulbs placed in front of him by using a remote control. “This installation is very useful for physically challenged or elder people who can’t move easily.”
Amjad has lived in Bourj el Barajneh camp all his life. The 19-year-old was not sure about his future until he spent some time working with his uncle, an electrician. When he decided that this was the right job for him, Amjad applied for an ANERA scholarship. He was selected along with 17 other Palestinians from across Lebanon to study at the Abdel Hadi Debs Vocational & Technical Training Center in Beirut. During their three years at the center, students choose a specialty like electricity, interior design, accounting or informatics.
ANERA’s vocational training and education program launched the scholarships in October 2012 to give Palestinians a chance to enroll in accredited institutions and increase their employability. Gaining marketable skills is essential in a fragile economy where Palestinians face high rates of unemployment.
Adel Damaj, director of the Debs training center suggests that challenge motivates Palestinian students to work hard and earns them high marks for their determination. “They take their responsibilities seriously and their projects in class represent a personal challenge for them.”
Director Damaj says too often their talents remain untapped. “At home, they are under a great deal of pressure. But once given the chance to prove themselves they become so full of energy. Many Palestinians occupy the first ranks in their classes.”
Design student Heba Abdel Rezek has shown her energy and determination to pursue interior design studies from the start. “We did not study the design of entire houses yet but I wanted to give it a try and it worked!” Heba has just started to study interior design and is already thinking about university. “I especially like the study of colors: it just puts me in a good mood.” She will be able to apply after completing her three year course at the Debs center.
Director Damaj says the center’s students obtain much more than a certificate. He says they take home an uplifting message of a commitment to hard work and a belief that success is possible. Amjad’s father shares his pride and hopes for a better future for his children. “My dream has always been for my son to be more educated than me,” he says, “for work but also for culture and knowledge because these are the foundations of a healthy society.”