How Diana Started a Girls Soccer Team in Bhannine
More than a quarter of Syrian refugees live in northern Lebanon, where Anera has been working with 37 local grassroots organizations to build capacity as they address refugees’ needs in education, job training and more.
The influx of over a million Syrian refugees into Lebanon has instigated an emergency response among nonprofits in order to meet their needs in a sustainable way. Lebanon hosts more refugees per capita than any other country in the world and has limited resources to provide for them.
More than a quarter of Syrian refugees live in northern Lebanon, where Anera has been working with 37 local grassroots organizations to build capacity as they address refugees’ needs in education, job training and more. One of Anera’s partners is the Social Skills Rehabilitation Association (SSRA), established in Bhannine in 2007. The five young women who founded it had three main goals: to promote quality education, to assist people with disabilities, and to improve the status of women.
“Our early activities were very modest, and we worked out of a small apartment that my colleagues and I rented,”
explains co-founder and director Diana Ghizzai. “At some point we couldn’t afford the rent and our activities were suspended, but community members helped us get through.”
Ten years after the association was founded, the number of people taking advantage of its services has increased from nearly 100 to more than 500. Of these, half are youth who are developing life skills through sports, literacy, math and other vocational courses.
Diana’s success is driven by her passion and by the support and encouragement she received from her parents. “When we couldn’t afford to rent a working space back in the late 2000s, my parents offered us two rooms to use,” she says. “And they let us use a nearby sports field.”
Anera also provided support by rehabilitating SSRA, and expanding their space by adding a classroom and bathroom facilities. “The renovation work was part of an Anera-UNICEF project and included wall painting, tiling the floor and installing a new roof,” says Diana. “We appreciate the support that we’ve received and we’re trying to add facilities to serve more residents in the area,” she adds.
“Most importantly, we’ve been able to change some social norms like the idea that girls shouldn’t play football and other sports.”
Recently, Diana formed a girls football team for refugees and members of the host community. “At first it was challenging to reach girls through sports, so I started sending my own daughter there to make a point to the community that it is okay and safe,”she says. “Now we have about 20 Lebanese and Syrian girls on the team, and they’ve started participating in tournaments, too.”
Anera’s work with SSRA is part of its project titled “Quick Impact Skills Development for Youth and Adolescents Affected by the Syrian Crisis.” The project is implemented in partnership with UNICEF and funded by the governments of Germany, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. SSRA is one of over 250 local partners throughout Lebanon.