Volunteer Spotlight: Nell

“Hello Teacher!” I hear as we’re setting up the classroom; students arriving early, ready to learn, laugh and challenge themselves in another day’s lesson. For the past three months, I have volunteered with the SHARE and LIFE programs. I have grown and learnt so much about myself, while also watching our students learn and grow every day. The classroom is a place where our students can laugh and joke, but also a place for them to work together to develop new skills. Covering topics from bullying, and how to deal with stressful situations, to ecosystems and natural habitats, ULYP’s students are eager to challenge themselves and gain new knowledge.

Every day is different, some days more challenging than others, but great colleagues are always there for support and encouragement. Our students never fail to remind us that the work we are doing is important and meaningful.  From a simple, “Thank you,” at the end of a class, to, “We will miss you so much,” at the end of a semester, they are not shy to show us their gratitude.  For me, the biggest breakthrough is seeing those who were quiet and nervous in the beginning, now feeling comfortable and eager to participate and help their fellow classmates. During my time with ULYP I have gained valuable new skills and confidence, allowing me to become a better teacher. I have had the opportunity to work with hardworking, creative and caring colleagues, who have motivated and inspired me every day. Most importantly, I have learnt that ULYP’s work is important and necessary for spreading hope, positivity and change.

Volunteer Spotlight – Claire Diederichs

As we made our way to ULYP’s campus in Dibbiyeh for my first day volunteering with HAPPY, I realized that I had no idea what to expect or whether the few words of Arabic I had mastered would actually get me through my first day of preschool. By the time we arrived on campus, I was beset with questions like: What if no one likes me? What if I do something embarrassing? What if I forget the Arabic words I learned?

With my anxiety rising, I nervously entered the classroom only to see 25 children’s faces all laden with the very same expression as mine. As each of us looked around the room, recognizing ourselves in one another, we became united and I started to notice courage replacing the looks of doubt. I sensed the eager excitement in the room growing as the nervousness slowly disappeared, and before I knew it, as we all joined hands to sing the hokey-pokey. Any worries I had before were replaced by feelings of opportunity and hope.

Now, I wake up every morning confident that it will be another HAPPY day, motivated by the smiles on the children’s faces as they have fun learning and exploring. I am halfway through my time volunteering on ULYP’s HAPPY Program, yet I already find myself struggling to imagine returning to my ‘pre-HAPPY’ life in the UK.

A Fresh Look

ULYP’s campus in Dibbiyeh is brighter and more welcoming thanks to the help of student volunteers from the American Community School Beirut (ACS). As a part of their ‘week-without-walls,’ ACS students and teachers joined the ULYP team and volunteers to undertake a number of campus beautification projects. Campus was buzzing with ACSers painting the walls and stairs of our preschool, designing new posters for the common areas in and around the campus and organizing the stacks of generously donated books we receive each term. The day was a triumphant success, and the results speak for themselves.

Not only is our library now beautifully organized and re-stocked, but the much-needed injection of color into both the preschool and the common areas has brought smiles to every person who comes to ULYP. It just goes to show how much can be achieved when we all get together and work as a team! Thank you, ACS, for all your hard work, and we hope we can count on you again next year!

“The Most Positive and Dynamic Environment”

Saga joined ULYP as an intern in September 2014, and dived straight into to our work, both in the office and on various programs on our campus. We asked Saga for her thoughts on her time with us:

Saga2014“For a long time I have been interested in migration issues and in the rights of migrants. I am currently studying a master’s program in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Lund in Sweden. Before heading off to a field trip in Jordan—where my classmates and I would be visiting Palestinian and Syrian refugee camps—my supervisor asked me if I had plans for my internship. He suggested that I apply to ULYP.

I have seldom learnt so much and experienced so much as during the few months of my internship here at ULYP. I was given the opportunity to work both in the office and on campus, (“in the field”), being part of the Young Learners and ACT programs. When I look back, I can’t believe  how all these experiences fit into only a few months’ time;  getting to know a group of five-year-olds and teaching them the first 48 English words in their vocabulary, taking photos of Syrian kids forming a perfect orchestra,  offering advice to aspiring photographers and poets in the girls’ bathroom on campus, handing out energy drinks to Marathon runners, designing an annual report and taking part in meetings in the most positive and dynamic office environment I’ve ever seen.

After a few weeks of winter break in Sweden, I am now back in Beirut. I hope to conduct a study here that will eventually lead to a master’s thesis. The topic? Life in a refugee camp and the right to access water.”

A Big Smile- Ruth’s experience with ULYP

It’s early morning and I’m sitting on one of the petite chairs in ULYP’s pre-school, when the bus arrives. Suddenly I’m surrounded by a group of shy, but excited-looking five year olds. It’s my first day of working with the HAPPY program and I feel exactly the same combination of shyness and excitement, except that I’m disguising it with a big smile, trying to make the children feel at home.

???????????????????????????????When I applied for an internship at ULYP, as part of my Master’s Degree in Middle Eastern Studies in Amsterdam, I said I would like to be mostly involved in office work. To me that seemed to be the place where I could learn the most, and be of most use. However, what I discovered is that to make sense of things like proposal writing and program planning, it’s good to know what goes on in the field, as the ULYP leadership team advised. Accordingly, I volunteered with HAPPY, ACT, and SAWA, and so I was able to learn a lot about what ULYP actually is doing, how a program is implemented, the different children who come to our campus, and how passionately the teachers are involved.

Working for ULYP means being surrounded with idealistic, passionate and strong people, who make the office and the campus an inspiring place to work. I am happy to be able to continue with ULYP for a little while longer and I look forward to the coming months.

Peace- Love – Run for ULYP

A grand total of 205 people participated in this year’s Beirut Marathon for ULYP, raising an incredible $3,189.67 for our Together in one Basket program. We are very grateful to everyone who supported us this year, especially to First National Bank, the American Community School and all our wonderful station volunteers!

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This is the second year in a row that people have been able to run in the marathon for ULYP and for a united Lebanon. We were pleased to have a group of runners of mixed nationalities and ages, like the ULYP family itself. This included: 58 runners from First National Bank, 45 runners from American Community School, six ULYP staff and volunteers in the Relay Race, several friends of ULYP, and our star runner, Aliaa Ghaddar, who ran the whole marathon. Paul van Sprang, the father of a ULYP team member, made his way from the Netherlands to Beirut to bring the $2,550 he kindly raised for us and to run the 10km. In addition, 82 children currently participating in our programs had the opportunity to take part in this fantastic event, 42 running 10km as an ‘Adopt a Team’ guided by their coaches and teachers, and a further 40 children sponsored by FNB to run the 5km.  marathon volunteers

10 students from our BRIDGE program volunteered at our fruit andwater station and another 10 at our Gatorade station to keep all the runners refreshed, hydrated and motivated.

We are very grateful to all our friends and supporters who ran, donated and volunteered for us, especially to FNB, ACS and Paul van Sprang!

Opening Doors to a Better Life

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As part of the BRIDGE program, four volunteers from Duke University, USA, made the long trip to ULYP’s Dibbiyeh campus where they organized a university preparation course for 29 students—a mixed group of Lebanese and Palestinians. Students were immersed in full-time study for one month, taking classes covering English, math, SAT exam techniques and conflict resolution. One of the four volunteers, Rachel Kiner, tells about their experience:

Our 2 months at the ULYP office proved to be much greater than the 2 month long assignment to teach SAT prep that we were expecting. Our small group of Duke students arrived with the intentions of improving SAT scores and promoting cultural tolerance to Palestinian and Lebanese high school students.

We found that not only were we able to assist a great deal in improving our students’ scores (an average of 200-300 points), but also that the challenge of teaching an English based test to ESL students would have a greater presence in our work than expected. I aimed to turn this challenge into an advantage and began practicing my Arabic on the board during breaks. This simple gesture opened up doors like I never expected. By showing a little bit of interest in my students outside of the job I was there to do, our relationship in the classroom became much more collaborative.

In their eyes I was no longer just an older, more experienced foreigner sent there to help them. We were partners, and they enjoyed teaching me Arabic as much as they appreciated learning SAT test-taking strategies.

Although the other teachers and I were elated by the score improvement, those numbers meant so much more than simply 2 months of hard work at ULYP. To us, and to our students, it meant opening the door to a better life.

KEY – Knowledge Empowers the Youth

photoAs part of Bank Audi’s pilot CSR program, members of staff are giving up their time to volunteer at several Lebanese NGOs, helping in their offices, on their programs, or wherever needed.

Several employees chose to volunteer with ULYP, and together we developed a new program allowing their skills and expertise to shape the sessions offered, and benefit the participants. ULYP involved students aged 16 to 18 who are studying at vocational schools. These students are often unaware of the career opportunities available to them, how to look for jobs and how to go about applying for them. As they prepare to leave school and embark on their careers, without guidance from their families or schools the prospect of entering work is daunting.

After doing team-building and ice-breaking activities in order for the students from two different schools to get to know each other, the first session was given by ULYP and focused on human rights and conflict resolution, looking at different types of conflict including at school and at home. The following four sessions were given by Bank Audi’s employees, and followed their particular interests and specialties. This included: banking, including looking at different types of banks, what goes on in banks and what does Bank Audi offer; careers, including work ethics, CV writing and interviewing role plays; photography, including a brief history of cameras, digital photography and how to set up a great picture; and finally internet etiquette, including correct use of social media, having a proper email address, and how to effectively use google to search.

The program was interesting and varied, and proved to be enjoyable, instructive and beneficial for both the participants and the volunteers. The students reported that they loved every session and found the program really eye-opening. They truly appreciated having professionals talking to them and sharing with them their advice and knowledge. ULYP hopes that the partnership with Bank Audi can continue and grow over the coming years.

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A day of SAWA, a day of creativity and community

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‘What is community?’ The program started with a question.

The children arrived at noon from two elementary schools in Saida. They were full of curiosity and excitement, and soon started to run around the garden, laughing and chasing each other. The girls were shyer than the boys and seemed a little timid in this new environment. It was the first time for most of the children to come to ULYP’s campus, but it didn’t take long for them to start enjoying the big open spaces. On seeing ULYP’s volunteers and teachers , Steve, Sahar, Nour, Angela and Haneen, they excitedly shouted ‘Hello!’, ‘Marhaba!’.

Lunch was served to the children who were by now in a circle, all sitting with their friends from the same school and not talking to those who they didn’t know. Noticing this, the teachers whispered to each other: soon they will all be friends because we’ll put boys and girls from different schools into pairs! This was the first experiment of the day, but it worked well.  Children were put into groups of four around one table, and they quickly integrated and started chatting. Sahar, who teaches both our SAWA and HAPPY programs and is very experienced in child and early education, started the class with a question: ‘How do you understand the word “community”?’

After a heated discussion, the children were asked to turn their ideas into pictures. With some quiet classical music in the background, they calmed down and started to draw pictures filled with creativity and emotions. It was a moment of inspiration, as they all became immersed in deep thought and explored their imaginations. Hadi, a 13-year old Palestinian boy explained his painting to the class: it depicted a garden with different people sitting around a table. Hadi said that what he understood as “community” is a big family where people regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or religion live happily together. ‘No matter if you are Sunni, Shiite or Christian, no matter if you are from Lebanon, Syria or Palestine, we are all in a big community, so we are all brothers and sisters.’

Everyone then took turns to explain their pictures, which were decorated with hearts and flowers, and showed girls and boys living happily together. These are the symbols of love and hope, of the dreams in these young hearts. With nurturing and encouragement it is this love and hope that will lead them to pursue their dreams, to face the difficulties in their lives and to build a peaceful Lebanon and a better future.

ULYP is very grateful to the United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) whose funding has helped to make this program possible

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The Beirut Marathon: Running for a cause – running for ULYP

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Early in the morning of Sunday 10 November, thousands of people gathered for the Beirut Marathon. Altogether there were over 36,000 participants from 104 countries taking part in one of the many races, and thousands of volunteers and supporters who made it such a great day.

ULYP had almost 170 runners, mostly running the 10KM Fun Run, with some in the 5KM Youth Race, and the Marathon Relay. We had one star runner, Claus, who ran the whole 42KM marathon. ULYP also had a water station at the 12.5KM mark in Ghobeiry, which all the marathon runners and many of the relay participants ran past and received water bottles and renewed energy from 10 enthusiastic volunteers.

All in all from registration fees and kind donations we managed to raise over $1600 for our SAWA program! This is an arts-based program that brings underprivileged children and youth together to unite through music, art, mosaics, and drama while practicing mutual understanding, citizenship and respect. For any more information about this and other programs, please visit our website.

Through the marathon not only did we raise funds, we hope that with the help of all our runners and volunteers wearing ULYP bandanas and T-shirts, we will have raised the profile of ULYP and spread our message, to unite the youth of Lebanon, to more people.

We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who participated on behalf of ULYP, especially to the families from First National Bank,  Capital Finance Company, Middle East Capital Group, the runners from Manchester United Lebanon, the families from Mnirkud Sawa, ULYP staff and friends and all the other individuals who ran for ULYP. We would also like to thank everyone who donated both towards our SAWA program, and towards registration fees allowing some of ULYP’s children to run, and our brilliant volunteers for their eagerness to help. These fantastic runners, walkers and supporters made our first marathon a huge success.

Next year we plan to be even bigger and better and reach 500 runners. We would love you to join the ULYP team, either as a runner or a volunteer!

We have uploaded photos of the marathon onto our Facebook page, so please visit and have a look. If you took part in the marathon for ULYP and took any photos we’d love to see them! Please send us an email with your best pictures, and we will add them to our album.

And one last thing… We have set ourselves the goal of reaching 1000 likes on Facebook and 100 followers on twitter by the end of this week! Please help us to continue uniting Lebanon, by liking us and following us!

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