Young Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon Design Their Own Future

February 13, 2012 ANERA
Education, Lebanon, Palestinian Refugee Camps, Vocational Training
Um Majed and her daughter Sajida "I realized I needed to let her go...experience life on her own.This is for her." - Um Majed

Um Khaled and Um Majed couldn’t hide their smiles as they toured the campus of Al Kafaat University, located at Fanar in Mount Lebanon. It was their first visit since their daughters had started class at the institute in November, 2011.

Ironically, the campus offering Um Majed’s daughter the promise of a successful future is just a short distance from the now-defunct Palestinian refugee camp Tal El Za’atar, where many refugee families in Lebanon once lived, including Um Majed. But her mind this day was filled with pride at what her daughter was accomplishing.

“At first I wasn’t sure if this was right for Sajida, being a girl on her own,” explained Um Majed. Most young Palestinian refugees, especially girls, rarely if ever stray from the more conservative family life of the refugee camp. “But then I realized that I needed to let her go, for her to gain confidence and experience life on her own. This is for her,” she added.

Young refugees like Farah and Saijda are getting a chance to further their career dreams.

For many of the more than 300,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, opportunities to earn a proper education and position themselves for the job market are few, limited and most often unattainable because of strict restrictions on those living in Lebanon with refugee status.

ANERA funds deserving Palestinian students at Al Kafaat

A scholarship program developed by ANERA in partnership with Al Kafaat and the National Institute for Social Care and Vocational Training (NISCVT) has facilitated the access of a number of young Palestinian refugees to give them the opportunity of an education in the fields of their dreams. The program was launched in 2010 with a group of five Palestinian male students. In 2011, it attracted two young Palestinian girls too. Farah Abdallah wanted to study fashion design; Sajida Jaber wanted to study jewelry design.

Farah at a computer doing fashion designs.

Farah is studying fashion design after working in a retail shop in the Baddawi refugee camp.

“Bringing these young girls to the program was a major victory for everyone, not only for the cultural challenge it represents, but also for their excellent academic performance,” said Jackie Atwi, ANERA’s Program and Grant Officer. Sajida and Farah ranked first in their classes, she added.

These young students reside on campus and usually visit their parents over the weekend in Baddawi camp in northern Lebanon. But they gladly changed their routine on this particular Friday in order to welcome their parents to their school, show them around campus and share a bit of their new life experience.

“The right person at the right time and in the right program”

Farah had fallen in love with fashion design while working in a fashion retail shop in Baddawi refugee camp in North Lebanon. She considers herself blessed for being “the right person, at the right time and in the right program.”

“I’m homesick, but I feel right in this place. I’m happy and doing well,” she explains, echoing the feelings of the other scholarship students. The girls acknowledge they were uneasy at first about leaving the familiar surroundings at home and nervous about integrating into a new environment and making new friends. Now they are happy with their school and their new and expanding circle of friends.

Farah and Sajida clearly feel they are on the right path to graduating and starting their careers in order to support themselves and their families. They are currently enrolled in a two-year program, but funds so far only covered the first term. They are hoping that new funds can be raised to help them continue into the second year.

“We’re so close to accomplishing what we came here to do,” said Farah, “I hope we get to complete the second year as well and graduate with a higher degree so that others in the camp can follow in our footsteps.”

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