“When we first opened the newly rehabilitated kindergarten, the children started running around, full of joy and excitement, ” preschool teacher Sarah Mchayrfe says, smiling at the memory.
“They thought it was a new public park.”
Sarah teaches at the Najdeh preschool in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. Anera renovated her school, thanks to generous funding from UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). The school in Shatila and another in Burj El Shemali camp in southern Lebanon are being renovated as part of the Anera-UMCOR partnership that already has repaired and improved schools in Burj El Barajneh and Ein El Helweh camps.
The aim of the program is to create a classroom environment that gives refugee children, aged three to six years, a safe, child-friendly and encouraging space to learn, play and socialize.
Anera identified the two preschools in consultation with its community-based partners. The facilities accommodate more than 340 children from diverse nationalities, including Palestinians, Palestinian refugees from Syria, Lebanese, and Syrian refugees.
I am so happy with our new preschool because there’s more space to play. Before we didn’t have any toys and the walls were broken but now look at all the new toys and colors.
Nadine Abdallah, Anera’s public health specialist reports a positive impact on the children, teachers and parents. “The impact comes from transforming the preschools into safe and hazard-free area with improved access to hygiene and sanitation facilities, recreational spaces, and a healthy and supportive educational environment.”
Four-year-old Ahmad Majed couldn’t contain his joy at seeing his new classroom. “I am so happy with our new preschool because there’s more space to play. Before we didn’t have any toys and the walls were broken but now look at all the new toys and colors.”
Restoring Safety and Calm in Lebanon Refugee Camps
The rehabilitation of the classrooms has transformed the space into a very bright, colorful and safe environment. Pink and green walls—colors carefully chosen for their impact on young learners—match the child-sized cubbies and book shelves. Most importantly, the renovations included safer stairs, improved electrical safety, more hygienic bathrooms and sinks, and insulation for the roof to prevent the mold caused by humidity, which so often ruins building in the camps.
Additionally, the playgrounds in both preschools were rehabilitated and equipped with colorful tables, benches, receptacles, water fountains, swings and outdoors toys, and turned into a space for the children to play together and hold large class activities.
The renovation of these preschools has helped foster a healthy and safe environment for children in Lebanon refugee camps to learn and socialize in, restoring a relative sense of normalcy in their lives in otherwise very abnormal and difficult circumstances.
Preschool teacher Sarah Mchayerfe says Anera’s program also includes some teacher training. “We learned some new teaching methods and more about interactive learning.” Another bonus, she says, is a private room for the teachers “where we can meet with each other and talk with parents who play a major role in helping us set curriculums and deal with problems.”
One of the major concerns, she adds, has been overcrowded classrooms but not so much anymore. “Now we have more spacious, colorful and fully equipped classrooms that make it so much easier for us to offer a higher quality of education.”