Do What You Love and Love What You Do
Vocational classes offer Norma a chance to follow her passion
Norma, 16, is a Lebanese girl from Mount Lebanon who has pursued her love of cosmetology, despite the social pressure she faced. She says,
“I stopped going to school when I was 14 because I felt out of place. I wasn't excited or passionate about any of the classes. My parents were very upset, but I insisted that my dream is outside the school walls.”
In many parts of Lebanon, there is a lot of stigma around vocational education. Many still see it as a lesser track — a path for students from low-income families who aren't cut out for high school. Our youth empowerment program is trying to change these perceptions. Good job skill programs can help people find jobs. They are a viable and respectable choice for talented youth who can excel in their trades of choice.
As a little girl, Norma loved playing with her mother’s makeup. She found comfort in coloring and drawing with them. She decided that she wanted to become a famous makeup artist one day.
As she grew older, Norma looked for ways to make her dream a reality. But there are few options in Baysour, a village with no beauty schools.
“I was tired of staying at home. I mean, I’m not a lazy person — that’s not why I left school. I just wanted to learn something I'm good at, and then earn money from it.''
One day, Norma’s aunt sent her a link to Anera’s free-of-charge beauty course at Shababik Association. It was close to her home in Baysour. “My heart started beating so quickly [when I learned of this course]. Wow, I don't think I was ever this excited about anything!”
She registered for the course and, within a week, Norma was going to her first makeup and beauty class. And she was enjoying herself.
“I felt at home. I wasn’t bored. My mind didn’t wander. I was focused. I told myself that I needed to commit and succeed because I had to show my parents and my friends that dreams do come true if we truly believe in ourselves and our talent.”
Norma completed the course, along with two more advanced classes. She learned about color pantones, types of nail polish and nail art techniques. And she learned how to cut hair professionally, how to mix dyes and where to check for new fashion trends. After absorbing the basics, Norma began her apprenticeship.
Anera connected her to a well known hair salon and beauty center in the area. Apprenticeships are an important part of Anera’s vocational programs. They allow young people to put their new skills to practical use. They teach students how to integrate into a workplace and deal with customers. And new grads gain real-world life skills they don't learn in the classroom.
For Norma, the apprenticeship led to even more.
“After my 22 days of training ended, Houssam, the owner of the salon, invited me for a meeting and asked me if I would like to join his salon as a full-timer. Do you know what this means!? It took me five minutes to absorb what he had just said.
“I landed a job, in a field I love, at the age of 16. Of course I am proud! I am supporting my family and putting money aside for my future.”
Houssam Malaab is the owner of Houssam Salon in Baysour. He says working with Anera to offer apprenticeships is a win-win partnership.
“As a member of this community, a salon owner, and, well, a human being, I feel that it’s my duty to help young people reach their potential, or at least be a part of their development. My role does not stop at teaching her the basics of our craft, but to show her what it means to be a successful business owner, how to deal with people, and how to be a trainer who might one day have the chance to teach someone else, just like I’m teaching her.
“Norma was never a burden — she is a good student and a fast learner. Hiring her full-time was an easy decision for me to make because she clearly had a strong base of experience.”
Norma has a message for other young people thinking about their futures. “Passion is more important than what society thinks. Formal school is not for everyone and there is no shame in needing to find a job. Do what you love and love what you do!”
She still has more ambitious goals to accomplish. Norma eventually wants to open her own salon. “I want to be the youngest beauty salon owner in Lebanon!”
Norma and thousands of other Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese youth benefit from Anera’s “Supporting Youth Affected by the Syrian Crisis in Lebanon” — a nationwide youth empowerment project in partnership with UNICEF and funded by the governments of the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands.