Sharing Happiness

The spring and summer of 2019 were busy for SHARE! We are working with 80 middle school children residing in and around the refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut. Students attend weekly sessions of English in the new center for Social Support Society in Shatila and enjoy full days of English, sports, arts and drama sessions on ULYP’s beautiful campus. As the summer comes to an end, we want to say good luck to our oldest SHARE students and welcome a new young group to this wonderful environment of spreading hope and reviving education.

The SHARE program, supported by the Beit Jiddi Foundation, grew this year to include HAPPY as a way to build the foundations of preschoolers who may become future SHARE students. Next year SHARE will celebrate its fifth year of changing lives!

Change Starts with Education

ULYP’s newest program, CHANGE, builds on the lessons learned and best practices we have extracted from our work opening doors through education.

CHANGE works with 75 Palestinian refugees from Syria and Syrian refugees currently in grade 12, working to unlock potential and supporting them through the door to higher education successfully. Over the course of two semesters, the CHANGE students engage in intensive English courses, soft skills training, university counseling and assistance with university applications.

The program team conducted an extensive community outreach activity, interviewed over 100 potential candidates and selected the final 75 who exhibited enthusiasm for investing their time and energy to improve their situations. The participants come from 15 schools located between Beirut and Saida. The program was launched in February and very quickly a culture of cohesion and motivation was established. The students made friends, found commonalities and supported one another to reach a higher standard of English. The students show commitment to their education, to the program and to themselves, their peers and their teachers. Although the program is still new, we are already noticing the change. With every class we hear more English and witness the unlocking of more potential. The program’s slogan says it all: Change starts with education.

CHANGE is in partnership with The Asfari Foundation.

Hekayat min ACT

ACT’s second semester started in March with a new group of 150 boys and girls, all eager to learn. As with semester one, the children come from very underprivileged communities with dire needs for programs allowing them to explore and pursue their potential. After reflecting on semester one, ULYP came up with our best practices to implement this time around. These include more team building activities earlier on in the semester, as the children lack confidence and are not comfortable or accustomed to working with others.

In April, the ACT children learned all about photography from their peers at the American Community School (ACS). This was a continuation of another project ULYP implemented last academic year with ACS, called Hekayat. Hekayat in Arabic means tales or stories.  The previous Hekayat project involved ACS children coming to our campus with their cameras to meet and interact with ULYP children and document their stories. This year, the roles were reversed: the ULYP children, namely the ACT participants, were given disposable cameras and charged with the task of documenting moments from their lives. However, before taking their cameras home, mixed groups of ACS and ACT students spent a day learning from each other, and practicing taking photos against the backdrop of ULYP’s beautiful campus. The next and final step of these Hekayat min ACT will include another meeting between both groups to edit the photos, choose their favorites and write the stories behind them.  Thank you ACS for your support of Hekayat.unnamed3

In May, the teachers and caregivers of the ACT children attended a one day TOT. Through two workshops, ULYP passed on our lessons learned, activities implemented and materials used at ACT to the teachers and caregivers, in order for them to sustain the effects of the program beyond its timeline. This is common practice within ULYP’s programs, and helps us to strengthen and widen the circle of impact.

Also in May, two HSBC executives visited the program. Thank you to Mr. Peter Yeates and Ms. Sarah Jerejian for your visit, for sharing your smiles with the children and mostly for your continued support.ULYP Visit 04.05.2015

ACT is carried out in partnership with Future First.

Environment Matters!

In FebIMG_3233ruary and March the second module of United by Environment was held. The program’s main goal is to bring marginalized youth together, and through peaceful coexistence and collaboration, teach them that the protection of the environment is a shared responsibility. “The environment does not discriminate between us, so why do we?”

47 youth, aged 16 – 18 from Bourj al Barajne, Shatila and Mar Elias participated in environmental awareness sessions, conflict resolution and public speaking workshops, and made short films. Environmental awareness sessions included building water heaters that run on solar power; building wind-powered vehicles out of waste materials from the students’ communities; and testing rain and tap water from the students’ own homes. The students worked in teams on collaborative film projects, using their new environmental knowledge and public speaking skills. These videos were designed to directly address their peers, promoting the protection of the environment as a shared responsibility. The videos will be available on ULYP’s YouTube page shortly, once editing is finished! During the weekend retreat while the participants were making their videos, ULYP was honored by a visit from Arabella Bohshali, Grants Program Manager at the U.S. Embassy.

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Success Story

While preparing for the videos, Wissam did not want to work, act, or appear in the video because, as he said: “it doesn’t matter”. After sessions on conflict resolution and public speaking, where students learned that it is their responsibility to take care of the environment and their right to enjoy it and advocate for its protection, Wissam became more enthusiastic. By the end of the program, he had taken the leading role in his group’s video. He proudly presented the concept and message of this video to all participants of United by Environment, including Miss. Bohsali of the U.S. Embassy!

*This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Department of State. The contents are the responsibility of ‘Unite Lebanon Youth Project’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of State or the United States Government.

Winter Wrap-Up

Children Clothing Distribution (7)

In the quarter September – December, ULYP had more programs running simultaneously than ever before. With over 1000 participants in programs every week, including Sundays, it was our busiest ever period. In December most of our programs came to a close for the winter break. Children, youth and women on Skills4Life, ACT, SAWA, United by Environment, and three sub-components of CIRCLE – Young Learners, Mothers, and Team Sports Camps, all participated in closing ceremonies, receiving certificates and program souvenirs and celebrating their achievements over the term. Participants on RARE will attend their closing ceremony in early 2015, when Skills4Life, ACT and United by Environment will begin again. ULYP is very thankful to all our donors, partner organizations, teachers, facilitators and volunteers, who helped make 2014 so successful.


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The ‘United by Environment’ kids are building their own water heaters.

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Our Circle kids.

SAMSUNG CSCClosing ceremony for the MOM’s participants

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Skills4life activities

Open up for Human Rights

In October, a new module of our RARE (Rights And Responsibilities Empowerment) program started, funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, CFLI. 60 Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese vocational students aged 15 to 17 had the opportunity to learn about conflict resolution and human rights, specifically the right to health, education and employment, and to put their new knowledge into practice through public speaking and social media.

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The program’s aim is not just to give students new knowledge, but also to provide them with the tools to use this knowledge to improve their lives and the lives of others in their communities. To this end, students participated in workshops on public speaking, presentation and debating skills so as to discuss and present their own ideas or issues affecting them. The final two sessions consisted of training in the benefits of social media, and learning how to implement a ‘Town Hall’ style meeting.

We are very proud of the students, many of whom obviously had difficulties opening up and expressing themselves to their peers, but eventually contributed to the lively discussions with their personal stories.  There were several participants who had never left their own communities or interacted with people outside the confines of their immediate environment. Together they discussed solutions to various personal conflicts and human rights issues, and got to know each other on a personal level through team building activities.

We were honored to welcome the new Canadian Ambassador, Her Excellency Michelle Cameron, as well as Kate Powers, Political Officer, and Nicole Maillard, CFLI Coordinator, to the closing day to witness the end of the Town Hall meeting, hand out certificates and chat to students. We are optimistic that we will continue to see progress amongst the participants, and we hope that the buds of friendship developing within the groups will continue beyond the end of RARE.

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ULYP’s First Annual Report

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The ULYP team is proud to have presented their first annual report, which will hopefully be the first in a chain of many. The 2013 annual report details ULYP’s achievements since inception in 2010 and summarizes the programs and activities that have taken place under the ULYP umbrella since the birth of the organization in 2010. As listed in the report, the main achievements during these years are:

  • Providing programs for an average of 1500 children, youth and women per year.
  • Expanding our palette of programs from three to ten.
  • Supporting 400 students in their pursuit of higher education and enrolling 341 students in universities with partial or full scholarships.
  • Refurbishing our campus in Dibbiyeh with three studios, a preschool, three conference areas, a football pitch, and more.

None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the support of our friends, donors and partner organizations. Neither would we have been able to take such steps forward without the dedication of our teachers, volunteers and interns, or without the energy, optimism and curiosity of the young participants. These children are convincing us that change is coming with this new generation. To see the full report, please click here.

Returning program: BRIDGE

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The summer was busy for the BRIDGE program; in total, around 300 students engaged in different BRIDGE activities. Here is the breakdown:

  • 150 10th graders took part in a university preparation course at AUST in Beirut.
  • 90 11th graders attended levels 2 and 3 of the university preparation course at AUB.
  • 30 10th graders participated in an SAT prep course on our campus delivered by the Duke Engage volunteers who were with us for the 3rd year in a row.
  • 15 11th graders attended a similar program delivered locally at the American Language centers in Zahle, Tripoli and Saida.

ULYP is grateful to the Welfare Association for their generous funding of the BRIDGE program, to AUB and AUST for their generosity and cooperation and to the DukeEngage and ACS volunteers who ambitiously planned and carried out the program in Dibbiyeh.

New Program: CIRCLE

A circle has no beginning and no end and neither does our new program in partnership with UNICEF. CIRCLE is a multifaceted, integrated program that targets the psycho-social wellbeing of children, youth and women through activities designed to help the participants better understand and express themselves, as well as cooperate with each other. The program targets 500 beneficiaries and takes place over a period of 7 months ending in February 2015.

 For Sports: Football Retreats

Three football retreats were held this summer.  During each retreat, the 30 players and their coaches spent three nights and four days on our campus. They attended football training sessions, as well as learning new cooperation and team work skills and building new friendships through football skills-building activities, conflict resolution and health and hygiene workshops. After a fierce competition at the end of each retreat, the winning teams met for a final cup, which was won by Al Somoud from Nahr el Bared. Congratulations to all participants, especially the winners!football retreat 2

For the Arts: Artist and Actors

This program enables children to develop their social skills, gain self-confidence and learn about their rights—through the arts.  Three mini camps of two nights and three days were held at the ULYP campus for  children aged 8-14 who came from as far as Bekaa, Tripoli and Tyre to immerse themselves in music, drama, art and handicrafts. The children also benefited from conflict resolution workshops and learned to work and live together on our campus.artistsAndActors

Meeting ULYP: A priceless experience

IMG-20140122-WA0000Time passed like an arrow in Lebanon. In the half year since I arrived, I have experienced and learned things that I will never forget, and which I will benefit from for a lifetime. Many beautiful moments will come to my mind when I recall my time in Lebanon, and among them, working with ULYP is one of the best.

As a graduate student of Middle Eastern Studies, I have studied a lot about the history, politics and society of the region, but never have I learned so much about the Middle East than since I arrived in Beirut in June 2013. The war in Syria has intensified the sectarian conflicts in Lebanon; walking on the street in Hamra, one can see handicapped Syrian children and women everywhere. Though I was amazed by Lebanon’s gorgeous landscapes, fascinated by the mountains and coastlines, wandering through the neighborhoods in Beirut also brought me sorrow and regret. Beirut is a small city, but the huge disparity between the rich and the poor areas here has struck me. The contrast between the refugee camps and the commercial center manifests some heartbreaking realities in this country. They make me sad.

And then I met ULYP. I still remember the first time I stepped into the office in the summer. It is a small place, but cozy and friendly. I was invited to lunch in their conference room, where I met the founder, Madame Melek, the director, Nicole, and all the other friends that I would be working with. That was the beginning of my time with ULYP, a great moment when everyone in the organization sat together around the table, like a big family.

I was introduced to ULYP’s different programs and went to the campus in Dibbiyeh where they are held. Working with the Lebanese and refugee youth was the greatest time I had with ULYP: teaching English to Syrian women in the MOMs program, playing and drawing pictures with Palestinian children in SAWA, talking to students with my broken Arabic and listening to their worries and ambitions… They told me about their dreams to study at universities abroad, and their hope to change the future of their communities and of Lebanon. I was deeply touched by the aspirations of these young souls, encouraged by their bravery to overcome hardship and to meet the challenges of life. I feel that I am learning from them; their language, their society, but moreover, their spirit to fight for their dreams.

I never expected that I could learn so much from ULYP and the young people it works with. I was surprised to see that some refugees of my age are mothers of several children, and that they have to take on the responsibilities not only of their own lives, but also of their family and children. There are other small moments of joy with ULYP that I will recall: when we looked at the smiling faces of the adorable children in the HAPPY program; when the SAT scores of the Bridge Program showed the improvement the students had made; when we planned  projects, bringing together creative ideas…. All of these will always stay in my mind, together with the encouragement I’ve received, and the lessons I’ve learned from ULYP.