“Fratelli Project”: Lasallians and Marists together to help Syrian and Iraqi children
The cooperation of the religious “Fratelli De La Salle” and “Fratelli Marists” bears fruit in Lebanon: the “Fratelli Project”, promoted jointly by the two religious institutes, is a sure point of reference for many families and a meeting place for many kids. The project kicked off in 2016 with the aim of welcoming refugee children from Syria and Iraq and vulnerable Lebanese children. There are two socio-educational centers hosting the children, one in Beirut and the other on the outskirts of the city of Saida.
“We want to avoid an entire generation of children to get lost in the expectation of being able to return to their native countries or of being able to settle permanently in a new country”, reports a project educator, Reem Bazzal. Attention and psycho-social support towards the person have always been a priority in the educational philosophy of Lasallians and Marists: “All the educational and social work that is done here – she explains – contributes to reducing the tasks of local institutions. Children ready to enroll in public school are selected and school support is given to others, but above all we work to normalize stressful situations, we provide a safe place to have fun and socialize. Furthermore, healthy stimuli are offered to children and young people who would otherwise be on the street with nothing to do: a high-risk situation from a social point of view”.
The two centers currently assist more than 600 children and young people per day (about 50% are women), aged 3 to 15, who normally participate in the various educational programs organized from Monday to Saturday.
The school starts early in the morning and continues until late afternoon.
The teaching, explain the religious, is inspired by the values of peace, justice, fraternity and hope that animate the two Congregations, and involves people, children and adults, of all religions.
During the months of July and August the ordinary programs stop and the “Summer School” begins followed by a “Summer Camp” which offers spaces for recreation, creativity, art and excursions and sports activities for children. In these centers, moreover, there is a training and professional start-up program for young adults, who are often the mothers or siblings of the children present: “Computer and sewing courses are active” says the educator. Children and mothers acquire useful skills to give economic support to the family, also finding a place to socialize. “Also in the summer – volunteers of various nationalities come from the Lasallian and Marist backgrounds to animate the colony of children, as well as young people from the ecumenical community of Taizé, to demonstrate that ‘Fratelli’ is truly a place of aggregation for all”.
The positive effects of this work on a country system severely tested by the presence of a million and a half refugees are evident for many Lebanese, and this means that the project is viewed favorably by the civil community: educational and social programs are, in fact, in line with the indications of the ministerial authorities and of Unicef.
The living conditions of many Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon are below the poverty line. The main problems are run-down houses, the lack of drinking water and food, insecurity and difficult access to education. About 58% of children aged 5 to 17 do not attend school, without considering the trauma of the war they experienced in their home countries.