- On April 10, youth from the House of Literature, Science, and Development In Tripoli worked on restoring a house and giving much needed furniture to a poor family in Akkar.
- On April 14, Hope Revivers, an informal group of youth from Batloun arranged for a bus to take them to Barouk Public School in a nearby village where they provided food and activities for 24 Syrian refugee children, ages 9-12.
- On April 16, students from Abadieh Official Secondary School, living in Abadieh and neighboring villages, cleaned and painted the walls of two classrooms, the corridors of the first floor, and the entrance of their school.
- On April 17, youth from Caritas Youth in Zgharta organized a free food event for poor Lebanese and Iraqi refugees, and entertained them with dabkeh and other activities, while other Caritas Youth in Koura organized a food and clothes market where poor people could obtain clothes and food for free using vouchers given to them from Caritas.
- Also on April 17, two groups in Saida (Badiri Organization and Saida Generations School) gave their support to orphan children and their families, providing food, gifts, and in one case, a washing machine, and taking the families out for lunch and recreation.
These are few of the 50 projects that took place throughout Lebanon, during Lebanon’s first National Youth Service Week (NYSW), April 9-17, engaging almost 1500 youth in service activities. The week expanded a tradition in Lebanon since 2001 of participation in Global Youth Service Day(s) (GYSD)– and all NYSW projects were also part of GYSD.
The organizers of National Youth Service Week in Lebanon acknowledge that many youth in Lebanon are engaged in service activities all year round, whether as volunteers for a variety of different organizations or as students fulfilling mandatory service requirements for over 100 private and some public schools. Unlike most of those efforts, however, the main objective of National Youth Service Week in Lebanon is to empower youth by giving them the training, guidelines, and opportunity to actively engage in selecting and planning the projects they implement in their schools and communities. While the projects were implemented during one week in April, a lot of the planning and preparation was done weeks and even months in advance.
Through its theme “Sustainable Service,” National Youth Service Weeks seeks to encourage service projects that are sustainable in three important ways:
1 Projects that are environmentally friendly in their planning and implementation.
2 Projects that help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).
3 Projects that continue over time or have a long-term impact. Some projects focused on Point 1 (the environment) by developing recycling programs in their schools, planting trees and flowers, and developing school or community gardens. One group helped clean and protect the habitat for the sea turtles that spawn on a beach in Tyre. Hope Revivers, whose project wasn’t focused on the environment, made their project environmentally friendly by using reusable bags for games and paper instead of plastic plates. As for Point 2 (the SDGs), all the projects addressed at least one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
And some projects were particularly conscious of Point 3, seeking to have their project have an impact beyond National Youth Service Week. The project organized by the Abadieh group, mentioned above, inspired other students of the school to paint their classroom soon after. And the group has submitted documents to the Ministry of Interior to form an official organization called “ABC – Access to a Better Community” to continue their efforts in the community.
PARTICIPATION IN NYSW
Participating groups were required to submit pre-project forms, post-project forms, pictures, and a project poster, as explained in the NYSW Participation Guide, available in Arabic and English. And on May 14, an event was held at the UNESCO Palace for participating groups to honor their efforts, solicit their input to improve the program, and hand out certificates to each project. The Hope Revivers group was honored for their Exemplary Project, with the hope that their example will encourage other youth to form informal groups to engage in service.
Three government ministries officially partnered in the project this first year – the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Environment, and 10 NGOs were on the planning committee, which was coordinated by Volunteer For Lebanon. Those who supported the youth groups included parents, school administrators, municipalities and local businesses, as well as other youth who were inspired by their friends.
The largest number of projects (28) was from the Access program of AMIDEAST which provides supplementary English language training to students in public high schools, many in remote areas of the country, funded by the US Embassy. Two other organizations with multiple projects were the House of Literature, Science, and Development in Tripoli and Caritas Lebanon. In addition, other participating groups included Azem Youth, Friends for Nature, Friends for Social Works, Harouf Social Forum, Junior Chamber International Lebanon, LOYAC, and Meriata Public High School.
VALUE OF THE PROGRAM
The value of the program went far beyond the services the youth provided. As the leader of the group from Saida Generations School explained, the youth “learned teamwork skills and how to divide roles. They also learned empathy, cooperation and the importance of helping others. In addition, they gained planning techniques on how to make use of available resources to create an effective project. And they learned the importance of volunteering in society and the emotional reward they get through it.”
NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE WEEK LEBANON 2017
Looking toward National Youth Service Week 2017, the organizers want to:
- Scale the program up to at least 10 times the number of projects and youth.
- Expand the coordinating committee to include more organizations.
- Increase the guidance, training, and support provided.
- Create an online platform to link organizations with projects to be done, groups that want to do projects, mentors, and donors.
- Create a micro-grant program that supports service projects in poorer communities.
For more info: www.volunteerforlebanon.org/nysw.
And to get involved, contact: