This summer, we were again lucky to host volunteers from the DukeEngage program in North Carolina. Ten enthusiastic, reliable and devoted volunteers joined our own local volunteers and together they implemented Bridge’s first component, the University Preparatory Course (UPC). UPC works with the top 150 Palestinian students enrolled in UNRWA secondary schools in Lebanon. These students, in the summer before 11th grade, engage in SAT prep and receive college and career guidance as part of UPC. We were pleased that some of the volunteers were of Middle Eastern roots. Hopefully, their volunteering experience helped them better understand their identities and more importantly, the untold stories of Middle Eastern aspiration and potential. On our behalf, we can assure that their counseling efforts left a memorable impact on the UPC students.
As a result of the long-term collaboration between ULYP and DukeEngage, a former UPC student, Nour Kanaan, will be joining Duke University this fall. We are incredibly thankful to the previous DukeEngagers, and specifically Jake McCarthy, who guided her during the application process. We are proud of this lasting partnership and look forward to collaborating with future cohorts!
Just like the title of this article, ULYP’s LIFE program spread the joy of learning which was made possible by Taawon/Lebanon. LIFE targets 7th and 8th grade students who are at-risk of dropping out of their UNRWA school, Haifa. LIFE works closely with the school to support the children’s education and offer intensive English and life skills both at the school and on the ULYP campus. Through the focus on life skills, students improved their behavior and attitude towards learning, increasing their confidence as well as their likelihood for staying in school. Parent meetings reinforced these gains as parents were engaged as partners in the educational journey of their children. The program concluded in June with a field trip to Arnaoun Village in North Lebanon where the children engaged in outdoor activities, confidence & team-building, and recreational activities while exploring a new place.
Life Success Story: Malak
When Malak began the LIFE program, she was shy and struggled to pronounce words correctly and properly, relying on others to communicate for her. She had a hard time focusing and listening in class, often getting distracted by friends and classmates speaking to her in Arabic or bursting into nervous fits of laughter when asked to answer a question.
As LIFE progressed, Malak began to demonstrate improved selfesteem and confidence in the classroom. Games building on teamwork in both English class and expert sessions allowed Malak to share her individual talents and contribute to her group, boosting her confidence while allowing her to feel supported by her peers. During a discussion on how to behave in the classroom, Malak expressed her new understanding of the importance of listening and respect in the classroom. After this discussion, Malak began to embody some of the qualities essential to being a focused and successful student. Through learning to listen, focus and ask for help when needed, Malak was able to use her energy in order to better structure her learning and build foundations for future success.
Our students are hard at work in the Change program developing their English skills and expanding their horizons through discussions on topics that range from modern art to life skills to respect. This summer has been lively, and we have seen great improvement and growth overall in both English performance and confidence – skills that will enable them to become positive change makers in their communities.
This summer, Change students engaged in a unit surrounding the book Who Moved My Cheese, a motivational short story about the consequences of not being able to adapt to life’s changes. Students used the book’s themes to reflect on their own life situations and how they can better adapt to changes occurring around them. As one student said during a class discussion, “Change is the only constant in life.” We are excited about how adept and eager our youth are and remain proud of their commitment to improving their own lives and thus, the lives of those around them.
Change is a component of the program ULYP is implementing in partnership with the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund targeting the secondary age students. Change will continue for one more year and graduate its 300 participants in August 2020.
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 spring brought new growth for the Bridge Program. 445 currently enrolled students began their spring semester, continuing to serve as inspiration to future university applicants in their communities. Another 255 new scholarship applicants have knocked on our doors, full of hope and ready to take advantage of the opportunity that Bridge provides to pursue higher education. The Bridge team has been providing academic counseling, application support and scholarship matching in order to help these students, who come from refugee and underprivileged backgrounds, remember that everyone has the right to education.
As the number of Bridge students grows, so do the opportunities available to them. ULYP was invited to attend the Education City Regional Counselors Program (ECRCP) organized by the Qatar Foundation in January. ECRP gave the Bridge Team the chance to connect with university admissions offices, foundations and other counseling professionals in order to better support future applicants and Bridge students currently attending university in Qatar.
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.
ULYP is extremely proud to announce that the BRIDGE program has been selected for a ‘Good Practice’ award by the Outreach and Practice Unit Faculty of Health Sciences (AUB). The faculty was commissioned by UNICEF MENARO and the UN Inter Agency Technical Task Team on Young People (UNIATTTYP) to document ‘Good Practices in Adolescent and Youth Programming in the MENA Region and Globally’. The awards focus on 5 areas: Civic Engagement, Skills Development, Resilience Building, Health and Other (entrepreneurship, social skills etc). BRIDGE’s work impressed the faculty significantly and led them to select BRIDGE out of 77 other competing programs as a ’Good Practice’ in the area of Skills Development.
The faculty weighed detailed reports on methodology, results, long-term impact and successes, finally choosing BRIDGE after an interview between the BRIDGE team and the representatives from the Faculty of Health Sciences.
We are very excited and proud to have been recognized with this award and are looking forward to the publishing of the official report.
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.
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.
ACT is carried out in partnership with Future First.
In February 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.
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.
On March 22, over 6000 enthusiastic children and youth ran the 5km Youth Marathon in Dbayeh. ULYP’s participation in the marathon was made possible thanks to First National Bank (FNB), who sponsored 18 underprivileged children to run. Additionally, children from the American Community School (ACS) paid twice the established race fees in order for a child from a ULYP program to be able to participate alongside them.
In addition to the race, running shoes collected by the Beirut Marathon Association will be distributed to underprivileged children in our network. ULYP is very grateful for the support of the BMA, and hopes that proper running shoes will give these children the possibility to feel the joy of running and to contribute to a healthy and happy lifestyle.
ULYP would like to give a big thank you to all the participants, the BMA, the students at ACS and to FNB for sponsoring children’s race fees and transport.