Working for Humanity: My Story with Anera

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From freelance writer to national communication manager.

I have been working directly with refugee communities, both Syrian and Palestinian, for the past eight years. I have worked with numerous humanitarian organizations, large and small, local and international, and saw many inspiring things, and many disappointing things.

I saw hardworking individuals giving their best to help others. I also saw corrupt individuals working without commitment. The many disappointing experiences, excessive bureaucracy and unprofessional work environments led me to give up on pursuing a full-time job. Instead, I established a humanitarian social enterprise and took short-term consulting and freelance positions.

Last year, while browsing opportunities online, I happened upon a posting for a freelance writer with an organization called Anera. I applied and was called in for an interview. Little did I know that I would be meeting with Anera Country Director Samar El Yassir.

I felt during the interview that I was in the presence of someone like me, but wiser and more experienced. Someone compassionate, professional and result-oriented. We agreed that I would work as a freelance writer for a short trial period to assess if I was a good fit for a permanent position.

My mission was to reflect the impact of Anera’s youth and employability program. My task was to conduct interviews and write website stories about a few youths participating in the program.

I visited Anera programs in action with my notepad and camera and a renewed sense of enthusiasm. I was not disappointed. The area managers and their coordinators organized an ambitious schedule for my field visits. I literally went all over the place, from south to north, in two and a half weeks.

Serene (fourth from left) with a group of Anera’s vocational course graduates with their teacher at her home. Read our story about them.

I visited Anera’s local partners, from educational centers, to local business or private schools. I met no fewer than 200 students, graduates and trainees. I talked with young people who had dropped out of school for heartbreaking reasons – people who had to give up their dreams due to forced migration: 15-year-olds who were forced to forget education and work to support their families and 18-year-old orphans who are now the breadwinners for their siblings. I witnessed marginalized Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian youth work side-by-side in classrooms or workshops – a rare sight in Lebanon, where inter-group tensions run high.

Anera’s youth programs offer young people an alternative to formal educational. I believe that is key to achieving community development. We cannot all go to university, we cannot all become doctors and lawyers. Providing young people, vulnerable people with an opportunity to obtain, free-of-charge, technical and vocational education is giving them another chance at life.

I couldn’t help crying when I saw refugee youth from my beloved Syria smiling with pride and passion. I felt hope shining through their eyes when they told me their stories.

Anera’s youth programs exclude no one. Courses are gender-inclusive and all ethnic and national backgrounds, whether native Lebanese or foreign, are encouraged to apply. Applicants require only commitment and determination. I visited Al Rahma Centre for Children with Special Needs in Tripoli, one of Anera’s partners. My heart melted when I talked to Thaaraa Bchenaty, a graphic design teacher, who told me, “With the right kind of support, patience and care, these kids can do anything.” Indeed they can.

Serene at a cooking class at the Rahma Center for Special Needs Children.

I was impressed by the number of female participants in Anera’s youth programs, young ladies breaking many gender stereotypes, young women enrolling in electrical maintenance courses despite sometimes facing discouraging comments and belittlement.

“I don’t care, I will not miss this opportunity and I will do it,” one young lady told me when I asked her what she has to say about her studying plumbing, a traditionally male-oriented course.

Through its programs, Anera is not only improving the livelihoods of these youth. It is improving Lebanon as a whole. Enhancing youths’ skills reduces extremism. Less extremism leads to social stability, which benefits tourism, one of the central pillars of the Lebanese economy, and one which was significantly impacted by the Syrian crisis.

It is said that knowledge is power, but when it comes to the work that Anera is doing in Lebanon, knowledge is also hope, inclusion, progress and hopefully, one day, peace.

As Anera Lebanon’s communications manager, I am proud to tell its story and to represent it wherever I go.



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