Applause echoed loudly through the room as each student walked up to the stage to collect a graduation certificate and toolbox.
The audience included local officials, representatives from local and partner non-profits, families, and friends. All were gathered to celebrate the efforts of 15 young Palestinians to improve their prospects in the marketplace.
The youths had successfully completed a vocational training course in plumbing and sanitary works at the National Institution of Social Care and Vocational Training (NISCVT), under Anera’s Enhancing Non-Formal Education Program (ENFE). An additional 27 youths that participated in youth activities under the program received certificates as well. It was a moment of pride for the students and their families, knowing that they have gained a marketable skill that gives them a better chance of finding work in a place where job prospects are slim – the Nahr El Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon
Abdullah Qadi Hboos, a 15-year old graduate, says the training had powerful impact on his life. “Now I am working,” he smiled with pride. “Before this, I was just sitting at home.” A fellow graduate, Yahya Muhammad Tuayye, added, “I can take care of myself now, and I’m also helping my family.”
The special ceremony marked the end of the program’s first phase. ENFE’s 18-month vocational training pilot program was implemented in partnership with community-based organizations and support from Reach Out To Asia (ROTA).
It provided support to vocational training and education support programs at six local NGOs and benefited more than 300 students. There were also capacity building sessions for more than 50 instructors and educational supervisors. Anera’s program also included youth community initiatives, including the planting of home gardens for 104 households and the renovation of a local mini-soccer field and playground.
The success of this pilot program encouraged ROTA and Anera to extend the program for two years and expand ENFE beyond Nahr El Bared to neighboring Beddawi camp to benefit more youth.
The celebrations included a tournament soccer match at the rehabilitated soccer field that took most everyone’s mind off the the surrounding devastation left by the 2007 fighting in Nahr El Bared. Two opposing soccer clubs faced off with their teammates shouting encouragement from the sidelines and children cheering from the bleachers . The field’s renovations were made possible with the help of ENFE and Anera’s local partners, after the camp’s 2007 conflict resulted in the confiscation of the only other playing field for security reasons.
Trophies and medals were handed to the winning team. Clutching his gold medal, 13-year old Talib Ali Youssef ventured to dream of a future career: “I want to be like Cristiano Ronaldo…and one day play in Argentina or Brazil.”
Palestinian Refugee Camp Gets More Than Space for Fun
The new playing field provides more than a space for exercise. It is a place for mentors to encourage teamwork and an opportunity to release tensions among the community’s youth who feel frustrated by their cramped surroundings.
ENFE’s activities also involved more than 80 volunteers and local families, in an effort to build home gardens that recreate and expand the greenery that had been destroyed five years ago. Mona Abdel Hakim Abu Haat, a mother of seven, welcomes the positive changes the project has made in the camp: “After the war the garden was filled with rocks, but then we were offered seeds and soil…Now I have lemons, oranges, guavas, olives, cherries, peaches, and apricots.”
In addition to the financial and health benefits of growing local produce, Mona says the garden has had an emotional impact on the community. “. It’s nice to finally see something green and alive in the midst of all this rubble.”