Children’s Library in Ain El Hilweh Refugee Camp
Hope and Play hadn’t facilitated any projects for Palestinian children in Lebanon. Not until we were contacted by Farah, who was herself a child of one of the poorest refugee camps in Lebanon, Ain El Hilweh. Farah was soon to be married to Bradley, and the couple asked us if they could get their guests to donate for a children’s library there by way of a wedding present. An incredible touching gift of love.
Ain el-Hilweh is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Young people there grow up in a violent environment, with severe lack of security, space and privacy. With its high rates of poverty, boys often leave school early and start work to support their families. In many homes, older sisters and brothers sit at home jobless with university degrees, which further discourages their younger siblings from continuing their education or even finishing school.
Hittin is a school for boys in grades 1-9 located at the upper street of Ein el-Hilweh Camp. The school has over 400 students on its roll, but almost half are at risk of dropping out, mainly because of low achievement levels and the difficult environment they grow up in.
The school had no library, and scope for children to read outside their curriculum were nigh-on impossible despite the best efforts of a very engaged school head. In addition, children with specific personal issues arising due to the trauma and difficulties of growing up in the camp would have to be dealt with in the open with all the other children. And access to computer facilities, essential to education today, were negligible.
Against this context, we contacted Johanne at UNRWA locally to see if she could help us make Farah and Bradley’s dream a reality. She proposed Hittin as a great recipient for this project, and then proceeded to expand the remit and secure additional funding to create a Learning Resource Centre, combining the library with a computer lab and teacher counselor room for psychosocial support for the students at Hittin School!
The project snowballed, and with wonderful grit and determination from Laila, the librarian at the Education Development Center for the UNRWA Lebanon field, books were purchased at favourable prices from publishers in Lebanon. She even managed to get book donations directly from publishers to augment the ones we were buying.
The new learning centre incorporates computers for the children to use, which were also new to the school.
Thank you so much Farah and Bradley for your generosity, and Johanne and Laila for making it happen for the children of Ain El Hilweh.