Promoting public health and youth employment at the same time
The pandemic has severely impacted the world’s supply chains and the global economy, leaving already-struggling countries like Lebanon with even graver challenges.
In order to respond as effectively as possible, Anera has retooled our programs in Lebanon to account for the bleaker job market and to meet immediate needs. And what is now one of the most in-demand items in Lebanon? Quality, reusable face masks that meet World Health Organization standards.
Given that need, with generous funding from Americares we launched a program to employ young people to produce face masks. The project provides young people in Lebanon with an opportunity to earn an income, while also providing marginalized families with washable face masks to help protect against the spread of the virus.
Anera launched a nationwide outreach campaign to enlist vulnerable, unemployed youth. And we partnered with local businesses and nonprofits to establish production workspaces and hire sewing professionals to train the youth. Like all of Anera’s programs, this project is inclusive, including participants of all genders and from both refugee and host communities.
Thus far, the participating youth have produced 25,000 face masks, many of which will be distributed to school children as schools reopen.
Here is what some of the youth had to say when we visited Al Bodon factory in Tripoli, in the north of Lebanon.
“Everything is really expensive now. Since it was so expensive, my education didn’t seem like a priority. So I dropped out of school. I didn’t lose hope though! It is just a detour."
"My friend suggested I join this sewing course. At least I am learning something. I am gaining experience and making some extra money for me and my family! And you know what?! I’m loving this work and I want to pursue it professionally in the future.”
— Mariam, an 18-year-old Lebanese trainee
“I didn’t complete my education because I had to work and help my father. We need to put food on the table! I heard about this course through my uncle’s friend. This experience has allowed me to work and earn much more money than before. And I’m learning how to produce face masks and make new friends.”
— Ashir, a 15-year-old Lebanese trainee
“Before the pandemic, I was studying accounting and information technology. But I can no longer afford to do that. Of course that makes me sad, but I also cannot afford to give up or stop trying. My life, like most young people, has taken a different route [than planned], but I will make the best out of it."
“I never thought I would be learning how to sew — ever! I’ve learned how to use industrial and professional sewing equipment and expanded my social circle by building new friendships."
— Bilal, a 22-year-old Syrian trainee
“Watching the news and learning about all the COVID-19 cases really breaks my heart. I am proud to be producing masks that will help children protect themselves. I am also happy that I am able to help my family financially while learning a new skill!”
— Hasna, a 14-year-old Lebanese trainee