A second chance for the children of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Deir Al Ahmar is a neighborhood in the Bekaa Valley, about 30 km outside of Beirut. Bekaa Valley is Lebanon’s most important agricultural region and it is an industrial force. For the people who live here though, life is difficult. Decades of neglect by the state means there is little economic and social stability for the local community. During the years of Lebanon’s civil war, the region was notorious for its drug cultivation, a dark legacy that remains today. Many local children of the Bekaa Valley, lacking any organized youth activities or even an adequately funded school system, fell into the drug trade at an early age. These children come from a variety of family backgrounds, often impoverished and with low education levels. Family violence against children and against women is common in this region and accepted in many parts of the community. As a result of all this, the school drop-out rate remains very high and the young people from this region have few options for the future.

At the heart of this neglected region, the Good Shepherd Sisters of Lebanon chose to plant a little hope in the town of Deir Al Ahmar and its neighboring villages. Here, they have been working for over five years to educate the youths – they consist of Lebanese Christians and Muslims – and provide them with a legitimate path for educational, spiritual and moral growth. The sisters do their educational and training work from a humble location, the Social and Community Centre of the Good Shepherd.

Programs at the center include:

  • after-school tutoring and educational support for approximately 60 children
  • extra-curricular activities for over 120 children that range from handicrafts, computers games, outdoor games, plays and other hobbies.
  • parental education programs to encourage continuing education for the older generations.
  • Given the high prevalence of drug activity in the region, the centre also screens a targeted program on drug prevention.

What more is that the center works as a contact point for basic community needs and it also provides social and psychological support with qualified professionals and special assistance for children with learning difficulties. The sisters want to ensure the children – enrollment consists of 200 children in primary and secondary levels –  are given an appropriate educational experience that will return the joy to learning.

Summer Camp Project 2012
An important program for the centre this year will be the summer camp, which is planned for 12 days during the month of September. 175 children (aged 6- to 16-years-old) from 9 villages will participate in organized activities with trained facilitators. The objective of the summer camp program is to ensure that children of all faiths come together to participate in engaging educational activities and, from that, sow the seeds for a more integrated community. The goal is that they grow in openness and tolerance, in a spirit of trust and peace.

The sisters have accomplished much, but still see the pressing need to expand their reach to make a difference above and beyond the 200 students enrolled at the school and those who can attend this unique summer camp experience.The sisters are asking for your support to reach their fundraising goal of $10,100. One of the funding goals is a simple one:  to employ a part-time teacher in the coming school year.

The sisters have been successful in their work and are strengthening this vulnerable community through many different activities. This centre has already become a huge asset for the town of Deir Al Ahmar in the Bekaa Valley. To be sure, with more help, the impact can be even greater.