Thursday, December 31, 2015

Women Participating in "Promoting Women's Role in Political Participation in Baalbek" hold a Conference to discuss Strategy Plans

Tuesday December 29th, the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training and their implementing partner Konrad Adeuneur Stiflung (KAS) representatives Hana Nasser and Peter Rimmele gathered in Tamooz Hall in Baalbek for a Conference to discuss the Advancement of Women In Politics. The participants of the Project "Promoting Women's Role in Political Participation in Baalbek" were joined by Governor of Baalbek-Hermel Bashir Khodr, former Minister Wafaa el Dika Hamze, General Security Major, Ghayes Zaiter, Pastor of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop, Elias Rahhal and other community activists.

Dr. Ramy Lakkis, founder and President of LOST said, "This workshop is for the participants to voice their opinions about what stops them from political participation and what we can do to mend these obstacles."

It is the right of every citizen, man and women to participate in community and in politics. The participation of women in politics develops the country and aids in mending the community.

Khodr said, "Despite the shortcomings of our government, the republic of Lebanon was one of the first republics to give women suffrage rights in 1952. In Switzerland women didn’t gain the right to vote until 1972."

But the Lebanese women are not taking advantage of that right even though the number of women makes up half the community. This patriarchal community.

"I think it's time to change that," Khodr said.

The inherited mindset that women are less then men and shouldn’t belong in a man's world is wrong.

Khodr said, "It's our duty to encourage women to participate in all political and community endeavors."

Rahhal, the pastor said, "There shouldn’t be difference between religions or between genders. We need to build bridges with great communication skills to change the landscape and transform the problems of our country into positive solutions."

Peter Rimmele, the German resident representative for KAS and head of the rule of law program in the Middle East said that Lebanon is one of the leading Arab countries in the scope of media, education, arts, and business. But in politics the role of women is not reaching fair standard. There are only 4 women in the 128 seats in parliament; this ratio does not represent the population of Lebanon. 

Lawyer Manar Zaitermunicipality member of Bednayel Inaya Sleiman and participant Kinda Abdel Sater made a group and spoke about the reality of the participation of women in Baalbek-Hermel


Friday, November 27, 2015

LOST aids 80 women per month to become Self-Reliant

 The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings and MCC have been working together on the project "Supporting Women Refugees in Baalbek-Hermel". In August 2015 LOST started the recruitment process and Training the trainers in life skills, reproductive health, family planning, Civic Education and Law, and trauma healing thus giving them the information they need to pass along to the fellow women participants. After the trainers attended workshops on various topics they recruited 20 participants from the four LOST branches, Baalbek, Ein, Hermel and Bednayel. Each trainer is responsible in making sure that at least 80% of the participants are Syrian women and the remaining should be Lebanese. In one month the participants complete four training sessions and receive their dignity kit; dignity kits are basically like goodie bags to promote cleanliness and femininity for the women participants as well as respond to their basic needs.

Every month 80 new ladies (20 from each branch) are recruited to take these trainings and build their capacities in society. The women have appreciated the trainings and attain useful information from them. They feel self-reliant and have made small changes in their lifestyles to have a better, safer, more dignified way of life. So far LOST has trained and distributed dignity kits to a total of 240 women.
Through the trauma healing sessions, LOST is helping vulnerable Syrian women feel more at home in a country that isn’t their own and hear their concerns. Giving them a platform to share their feelings helps the women feel relieved and puts them in a positive mood that affects the household and this cycle affects the psychology of the children to be peaceful.

Friday, November 13, 2015

LOST launches Youth Forum so Raise your Voice; Someone is Listening

The Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training launched the opening ceremony for the new project "Youth Forum: Amplifying the Voice of Youth in Northern   Bekaa" in association with OTI/USAID in Tamooz Hall in the presence of Bashir Chord, governor of Baalbek-Hermel on Tuesday November 10th, 2015.
The seats in Tamooz Hall filled with 120 participants from all eight villages, field officers, trainers, and special guests like Colonel Mohammed Nasser, Father Paul Keyrouz, and municipality officials. These young men and women will participate in a set of trainings to build their capacities in leadership, communication, issue identification/analysis, conflict transformation and resolution. After they have been conditioned to be original thinkers, the youth will come up with eight different projects after a series of surveys with the people to solve a specific problem in their individual communities.

Founder of LOST, Ramy Lakkis, said, "the project is vital and useful for youth from Hermel, Ersal, Fakiha, Ein, Labwe, Baalbek and Deir el Ahmar to interact with each other positively. The project aims to develop the capacity of young people and enhance their leadership roles in the community as well to improve relations with each other."
After the training workshops the youth will attend a general conference to convert the problems and needs into small community projects, and through the projects communication between the regions channels will be enhanced. By seeing that every village has similar problems and by setting aside differences, individual voices will become a voice in unison to interact with the surrounding environment and homeland.
Governor Khodr came up to the podium saying he isn’t a stranger to the LOST's project and that he is delighted when [he] sees young people attached to their land and their community, and taking part enthusiastically in  workshops to work on developing their knowledge abilities and potential, and [he] sees in a bright future for them. He continued his motivational speech by saying that among this group of 120 there are the leaders who will take action in public affairs and political offices and influence the region.
He quoted Pope John Paul II on how important development is to reach peace and continued asking for all to join together in the advancement of Baalbek-Hermel,
Khodr said "there is no development without security and stability. Security is considered a priority for development, it is not the responsibility of the security forces, but is also your responsibility, and the responsibility of everyone in society."
He concluded saying: "I started from among you, and I'm one of you, so we together enhance our country."

LOST through this project aims to plant the seed of development and inspiration in Lebanon's' youth for the country and the country's' people to flourish and live in dignity.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Women Participating in Political Processes at LOST

October 29th 2015, an opening ceremony for a project funded by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung(KAS) was held under the auspices of the Governor of Baalbek-Hermel, Bashir Khodr, at the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings(LOST). More than 100 participants in the "Promoting Women's Role in Political Participation in Baalbek" project attended along with Administrative Director of the project from KAS, Hana Nasser as well Mufti Sheikh, Khaled Soleh, and Elias Rahal, Pastor of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop to support the launch of such an important initiative.

This project aims at fostering social change and by empowering 80 women in Baalbek-Hermel Region to participate in the decision making process at the local level and institutionalize their political inclusion. It also gives an opportunity for silent and passive women to become more proactively involved in the local decision-making processes. These 80 women will take training workshops, for the length of the project of two months; including familiarizing themselves with their rights as Lebanese citizens. By expanding their knowledge and acquiring useful skills through the trainings the local participation of women in the municipal elections will increase.
Governor Khodr said, "Why are women absent [from political participation] nowadays? While the making of Constitution and the law of the Lebanese people women were there with the right to equality and to participate in nomination and election before by many Western countries, like the United States, Britain and others. Then the excuses in society and in the mentality of the country about women's participation [are wrong] , the basic responsibility for women is to participate and those who are reluctant to participate in public affairs are giving up their rights."
KSI Project Director Nasser said, "The most important factor that helps women to play their role to the fullest is they constitute half of the society, they are our educators and the media makers and that contributes to raising awareness, and women themselves are responsible for the progress of society, they must change the way they see themselves before they can change the way the world sees them."

Nasser stressed that the "Lebanese women are pioneers in their field of influence, but fail to participate in the political sphere."

President of LOST, Ramy Lakkis said, " "History bears witness to the struggle of women in various places in the world and their suffrage movements to have equal rights and  here we have our society which recognizes women's participation in public work and our women don't exercise that right. And the importance of participation is it promotes a democratic culture."

LOST believes in building the capacity of women in society to enhance the present predicament of Lebanon. Social change is important to better the community and ensures that each person lives in dignity and safety.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Voices of Youth

Inline image 3"Amplifying the Voice of Youth in Northern Beqaa" , a joint project wirh OTI/USAID will be executed in the following eight areas, Hermel, Ain-Fakiha, Ersal, Labweh, Baalbek, Dayr Al Ahmar, Britel, Chmostar-Bednayel, bringing youth together to become activists in the community.
These areas border each other and are composed with families of different theological backgrounds and a history of skirmishes resulting from the clash of sectarian values. There will be around 120 participants total from the eight villages. The youth participants will take trainings in Leadership skills, Issue Identification, Conflict Transformation and Communication Skills while brainstorming and sharing opinions of what the problems are in each area. From each of the areas two participants will be nominated by the group as true leaders and will represent the group throughout the project. These 16 chosen leaders will form their own group called the Youth Steering Committee in decision making and meet with key stakeholders as well as organize the Youth Forum.
Inline image 1
After surveying and analyzing the potential problems in the areas, the participants will produce a pamphlet with key issues in the community and a plethora of pragmatic solutions. This pamphlet will be distributed to INGOS and NGOs during a press conference that the participants will use as a platform to voice the individual and shared concerns of each area.
Inline image 2
The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings working with OTI have a vision of a unified Lebanon especially the deprived Beqaa region that they will accomplish in the long run with this project as a stepping stone. Together they are taking Lebanese participants from the variant backgrounds to become representatives in their areas and bridge the ideologies of the people to enhance Beqaa. LOST's ultimate goal is to build an imperishable community of peace that generates positive approaches to negative situations and nourishes an open mentality.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Who Says Women Can’t Work? Certainly Not LOST

In Hermel, Bekaa on Thursday October 1st, 2015 Regional Head of Education in Baalbek-Hermel, Lamia Husseini, gave an empowering speech to young women on success in a man's world. The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings invited Husseini as a motivational speaker as part of the "Step towards Municipal Elections" program funded by The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
More than 100 women attended ranging from 15 to 50 years old. Husseini shared her experience of how she landed a role in decision making on education related topics in the Baalbek-Hermel area after a life time of teaching.
Husseini said, "Women playing a role in society other than the traditional housewives role promotes and aids to the development in the country; it is very important for women to participate in the community. I don't like to hear a woman or man saying 'women can't or shouldn’t do this, that, or the other', I am a strong and firm believer in gender equality. Physical differences should not be reason to stop women from doing a man's job but that's what culture has misled us to believe."
STEP aims to educate and promote women to participate in decision making in their municipalities and run for office in the municipal elections. During the several trainings participants learn their rights, where to go for information, conflict resolution skills, social media and computer skills and more. LOST wants to flip the board and increase the one percent statistic of women holding political seats.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Communication is Key

The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings (LOST) is six months in to its project "Food Security for Vulnerable Families" funded by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
During a workshop on September 23rd, 2015 under the life skills category, LOST gave training on child care and the psychology of child. One week later a Lebanese participant named Nada Sarout a 40-year-old mother with three kids, Ali (5), Mohammed (11) and Khawla (12) shared her thoughts on the training. Sarout takes care of her husband as well as her children. Her husband experienced a stroke that had left his whole left side of the body immobile and so he is unable to provide for his children. Influenced by the workshop she said, "I am used to just smacking my kids [especially my youngest] when they do something wrong before giving them the chance to speak. After learning about methods to understand children, I have stopped using the old methods with them."
"I now ask them what is wrong and try to understand the problem; it makes more sense to communicate because hitting isn’t getting us anywhere."
This project aims at empowering women by distributing sheep to the most vulnerable Lebanese families. Thus Lebanese women become assistant head of households by increasing the income generation to provide for their children. The Food Security project also bonds Lebanese and Syrian Refugee women to coexist peacefully through life skills and peace building workshops. The sheep Sarout owns now has a little lamb offspring.
In addition, the Syrian and Lebanese women attending the workshop created a Whatsapp group to communicate throughout the week.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Advocacy for All

The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training (LOST) has been recognized as Lebanon's Country Focal Point for the Sphere Project on September 28th 2015. The Sphere Project functions as a board composed of activists from worldwide humanitarian agencies and organizations that follow virtuous guidelines and honor basic human rights. LOST was chosen by the Sphere Project for having similar principles and working towards improving the lives of people in need in order for them to live in respect and dignity.
As a country focal point LOST will introduce Sphere to government ministries to follow sphere support in context of disaster management and civil protection. LOST will also act as a point of contact, answer questions and train people and organizations using the Sphere Handbook among other tasks.
LOST has several training of trainer sessions in the near future to capacitate the LOST team and affiliates with Sphere guidelines and tools in dealing with humanitarian issues. LOST also has a schedule to train INGO local employees on humanitarian response, relief, and recovery as well as protecting the needs of people.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

We Are for Each Other: LOST Acts as Middle Man to Help the Vulnerable

The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings officially launched their "Nehna La Ba3d"(We Are for Each Other) Initiative Monday September 21st 2015 with a cake cutting ceremony with staff and partners involved in this charity project.
Bags have been distributed along with flyers and LOST has received bags with fall and winter clothing from staff and friends. LOST will collect the bags on Thursday October the 1st and Friday October 2nd, 2015.
This project funded and managed by LOST aims to relieve vulnerable Lebanese families by distributing second-hand gently used clothing. LOST is providing bags and picking up donations from businesses and households. In Arabic there is a proverb, "Give and God will give back", and giving a family in need clothing that would otherwise go in the trash is a Robin Hood moment.

Turning our Negatives to Positives: It's a win-win for Women and Men

In part to raise awareness about women's social security rights in the workforce, the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings (LOST) along with twelve other organizations teamed up with Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in their project "Hakkik Daman Ayltek" or "Your right to Guarantee Your Family".
Spokespersons for the project from SFCG and partner organization ALEF filled LOST staff in on the employment laws in Lebanon and what is not being honored. "Hakkik Damanik" aims to empower women socially and economically by building the capacity of organizations to launch joint advocacy campaigns for men and women to have equal rights.
LOST, through media awareness campaigns and through present and future projects, like STEP which aims to empower women through civil law supports SFGCs vision. When women's rights are honored and implemented, equality is created between the ratios of working women to working men. Women aged 15 to 24 make up 22.8 percent of the working population according to the Lebanon Knowledge Development Gateway. The percentage decreases as the age increase; working mothers are unable to guarantee their husband or children and until 2013 didn’t have the right to maternity leave for up to 10 weeks.
By contributing to increasing women's economic participation in the private sector, as a country we will be able to stimulate economic development.

Friday, September 18, 2015

If it Looks Good, then it Tastes Good: LOST initiating a Better Baalbek

Tuesday and Wednesday September 15 and 16 bakers and butchers with shops in the Baalbek district gathered at LOST headquarters to get their measurements taken for uniform aprons as part as the Baalbek Ahla Project- "Better Baalbek".
LOST launched this initiative after talking details to the Mayor of Baalbek Doctor Hamd Hassan on August 27th of 2015 and collecting a list of all the bakery's and meat shops in the city of Baalbek.
As incentive for the participation of the bakers and butchers in the Baalbek Ahla project, LOST is offering their sons and daughters a scholarship to enroll in classes in the ECC managed by LOST.
This initiative managed and funded by The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings aims at increasing tourism rates in the area. LOST has a vision to enhance the image of Baalbek; this area in Lebanon is rich with history and has a high potential to flourish like other areas in Lebanon, with the right tools. To increase tourism LOST will train restaurant waiters on dialogue and serving etiquette, as well as pass out aprons, gloves and cutting boards to butchers and bakers.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Congratulations to Our Future Leaders!

Under the Auspices of the Governor of the Baalbek-Hermel area, Bashir Khodr, Monday September 7th, 2015 students from the Electronic and Commercial Arts Center, managed by The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings, graduate with certificates to show for their hard work. The summer graduates took courses cosmetology.
Founder of LOST, Ramy Lakkis said, "It is an honor for both us as an organization and you as a student to have made it to this day."
Lakkis continued, "Studying and participating in extracurricular activities isn’t done just for the pleasure of having a degree, it's for us to become better Samarians and activists in our community."
LOST offers programs to help in income generation and to open opportunities that were not there before. This year for the first time LOST offered courses in CISCO network technology. CISCO course educates students on networking and computer and career skills for entry level IT jobs. Students graduating with CISCO IT Training will receive a certificate recognized internationally.

A Divided Area Will Hopefully Merge with Future Youth-Led Initiatives

The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings, representatives from OTI/USAID, municipality mayors from Ersal, Fakiha, Labwe and Ras Baalbek, key stake holders and the youth participants gathered in the LOST center of Ein for the final event of the OTI/USAID and LOST project "A Youth Led Social Cohesion Initiative in Northern Bekaa" on Thursday, September 10th,2015.

LOST enabled he groups of youth from each village to take initiative in implementing projects to help soothe tensions between the surrounding communities. A video was shown showing the small youth led community projects and the reaction of the village residents. After the video two youth participants from each town came up to the stage to share with the audience their experience in the project.

Through the trainings and merge activities LOST provided for the youth, the youth felt a change in perspective and sense of leadership to make Northern Bekaa a peaceful area without the harsh sectarian divide.

LOST through this project tackled a major problem of social unrest in the Bekaa and aimed to make peace between tribal communities and stop sectarian feuds between Ersal and the neighboring villages.


Monday, September 7, 2015

In Positivity and Laughter: LOST Opens the Playground Doors In Chaat

Thursday September 3rd, LOST representatives visited the municipality of Chaat where more than 70 Syrian and Lebanese kids and their families gathered to celebrate the opening of their new playground.
The playground features new swings, slides, seesaws and more for the children to play together and interact with each other, in order to ease tensions and promote peace between the Syrian Refugees and Lebanese host community.
This playground was installed in the municipality as a small community project part of LOST and UNICEF’s campaign “Youth-Led Initiatives” that aims in encouraging youth from both communities in non-violent encounters. LOST helped in creating an independent space free of disharmony and negativity. Playing together and having the mothers and fathers at the playground with the children increases positive interactions between families and children.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Two Teams, One Soul: Syrian Refugees and Lebanese Youth Play Ball!

The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Trainings rejoiced in the opening ceremony for a soccer court in Britel, a small community project under the “Youth-Led Initiatives” project funded by UNICEF took place last Friday, August 28th, 2015.
This ceremony gathered more than 100 excited Britel residents from all ages. The youth and adults were loud and chatty, all wearing soccer uniforms and ready to start playing in the court.
As result of the youth Summer Camps, forty Syrian and Lebanese adolescents worked together to create a space for outdoor activities will help build bonds and ease tensions between the two communities.
Mayor of Britel Haj Abbass Ismail said, “ Even if we play as two teams and are from two separate countries, in the end we are one.”
The youthful spirit filled the municipality and the older men started horse playing and one man, Abbass Tlais, 26-year-old Britel resident said, “This is an amazing opportunity that LOST has done for the kids and grown-ups in this village. There should always be a place for the youth to get out of the house and use their energy in interaction; it is better than them sitting on their phones all day.”
LOST wants what the townspeople want, peace and safety in their village and every village. There isn’t anything like sport in forming a foundation of trust between teammates and teams.

The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training share plans for the “Nehna la Ba3d” Project with the governor of Baalbek-Hermel Region

Governor of the Baalbek-Hermel region, Bashir Khodr attended a meeting with founder and president of LOST, Dr. Rami Lakkis, regarding the draft campaign of "Nehna la Ba3d”, which translates to “We are for Each Other”. This campaign will be launched under the auspices of Khodr and in collaboration with the people of Bekaa.
Khodr initiated the meeting, praising LOST’s role in serving the community. Khodr said, "I'll be part of this project, that reflects the cohesion of the community, and calls for cooperation of public interest, and flourishes in the spirit humanitarian and noble values, I am at your side supporting the projects that are beneficial to the people of the region."
Dr. Rami Lakkis said: "We share the same concerns of the region, and through our experience for over a year together, we have seen that you [Khodr] care about Baalbek and the loyal people of Baalbek, and we in the Organization are in the process of launching a campaign “Nehna la Ba3d", next week. The campaign aims to help the most needy families in Baalbek, through the distribution of winter clothing for two months, after the clothes have been collected cleaned, organized, packaged and distributed of course. The purpose of the project is to encourage the communication between the different classes of Baalbek society, urge them feel in social solidarity, to help those in need, and launch initiatives that serve the community and develop a spirit of cooperation and participation.”
Campaign coordinator Omar Bayan explained the mechanism of action; the campaign is divided into two stages, the first stage begins in September and ends this October next late, while the second phase starts in April 2016 and ends in late May.
Bayan said, "A team from LOST will distribute printed bags with the “Nehna la Ba3d” logo to the affluent families who wish to make a donation. The deadline to pick up the donation will be within three days of receiving the bag. The team will deliver the donated clothing to be clean and sorted by sex, age and size. Finally a sheet of paper with the sizes and an appointment will be distributed to the needy families. The families will come to the warehouse and choose the appropriate clothing for the children, the families who can not attend for any reasons will have the clothing delivered from the team to their homes.”

Monday, August 31, 2015

Youth In Hawsh El Rafika Install Water Pump With LOST To Benefit Homes

Friday August 28th, 2015, LOST members and residents of Hawsh el Rafika municipality rejoiced in the opening ceremony of a small community project under the “Youth-Led Initiatives” project funded by UNICEF.

LOST completed the installation of a water pump in the municipality to transport water from a public well to the houses for the people to use water domestically. This small project will benefit between 70 and 80 households in the area.

Mayor Riyad Yazbeck of Hawsh el Rafika said, “What is good for the people of this town, I support and would love to see a better village and happier people through each project.” Yazbek continuously thanked UNICEF and LOST for all the hard and effort and said, “LOST implemented many small projects in our village, and all of them have helped the villagers in positive ways, we are keen on continuing with this sustainable and reputable NGO.”

Resident of Hawsh el Rafiqa, Iktemal Mokdad, said, “I am excited that the municipality and LOST worked together to give us this. There was water before this project, but it was never enough, and we always had to buy a tank every day just to have enough water to bathe the children and do laundry and such. Now with this water pump we don’t need to buy a tank everyday and I can save money to take care of my youngest daughter with a physical disability.”

Mokdad strongly believes that the children in the town with physical and mental disabilities should get the help they need.

LOST aims to help as many Syrian refugee and vulnerable Lebanese families with simple solutions to larger problems. In Hawsh al Rafika, a water supply is low and the nearby Litani River is no longer free flowing with clean water like before. Water sources for this town has become naturally scarce and buying water by the tank is too expensive for most families. The youth in Hawsh el Rafika engaged in the LOST/UNICEF project and used critical thinking skills  to come up with creative and cost efficient solutions for enhancing the community.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lebanese Youth participate in Peace-building Projects in Northern Bekaa to Build Bridges between Ersal and the Surrounding Villages

Thursday August 27th, 2015 LOST signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with three different municipalities to implement small community service projects under, “A Youth Led Social Cohesion Initiative in Northern Bekaa” project funded by LOST and USAID.
LOST gathered 60 Lebanese adolescents from Fakiha, Ras Baalbek and Labwe municipalities in order to reduce violent outbursts between them and Ersal, with the majority of its residents of the Muslim-Sunni community, through activities like, painting murals and converting artwork into postcards to be distributed throughout Bekaa.
Fakiha, with residents of mixed religious backgrounds, the youth took action in their town and decided that the municipality needed traffic mirrors to reduce car accidents and to avoid children getting hit by oncoming traffic.
In Ras Baalbek municipality, the demographic of the residents there are from the Christian faith; the adolescents found a logical solution to improve the additional discomfort that resulted from influx of Syrians refugees to the already violent prone area. The Mayor of Ras Baalbek agreed to accept the installation of 100 garbage bins in the area as a solution to the primary problem of garbage disposal. The Mayor also promised a piece of land for Lebanese youth from different religious backgrounds to come together for further activities.
In Labwe, the villagers are of the Muslim-Shia background, the group of 20 adolescents decided to paint a mural and rehabilitate the wall adjacent to the football court. Painting builds trust, allows for a free flow of thoughts and allows for tranquil meet-ups.
Each municipality made post cards of their activities through the trainings and distributed them to various centers and stores throughout the Bekaa area.
LOST through this project aims at planting the seeds of peace in tribal communities to ultimately stop feuds of sectarian conflicts and construct grounds to share, spread and commence coexisting harmoniously.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Syrian Refugees and Lebanese Youth in “Theatre of The Oppressed” to Bring About Change

LOST and UNICEF have collaborated together for Syrian and Lebanese youth to express themselves through art, in specific theatre. With the guidance of instructor, Abdu Shaheen, the group of 15 adolescents put together a series of acts that will be enacted on different platforms spread throughout the Hermel, Ein, Bedneyel, and Baalbek areas.
Shaheen trained the actors on stage techniques like voice volume, body gestures, personality expressions as well improvising. Through the process of digging for local issues, the youth are motivated to think critically to find resolutions as well as arouse feelings of empathy in the audience towards the Syrian Refugees.
While improvising, the actors on the stage interact with the audience by inviting them to take part. This interactive form of theatre allows the audience to find alternative solutions to the problem being acted out. The actors’ impromptu is forever changing with every volunteer that comes up on stage.
In the skits the youth created from real life experiences they use the techniques of epic theatre to ridicule society and point out the flaws in our community in order to arouse feelings in the audience to change and make a difference. The goal of the “Theatre of the oppressed” is for the audience to recognize the fault in the environment we live through the skits. This theatre releases a sway of catharsis for the spectators; make a double take in the reality we abide by. The emotions felt by the audience through the theatre acts as a catalyst for change to restore humanity.
Here are the show dates:
• Friday august 21st  - Jar el Ahmar at 6 p.m.
• Saturday August 22nd - Camp al Mansoura at 6 p.m.
• Sunday august 23rd- The Public Library at 6 p.m.
• Friday August 28th – Camp Chaat at 6 p.m.
• Saturday August 29th – LOST Center in Ein at 12 p.m.
• Saturday August 29th  - New Camp at 6 p.m.
• Friday September 4th – Camp Masriya at 11 a.m.
• Friday September 4th – Camp Hawsh El Rafqa at 6 p.m.
• Monday September 7th – LOST Center in Bedneyel at 6 p.m.
• Thursday September 10th – ElBayan at 11 a.m.
• Thursday September 10th – ElTaybe at 5 p.m.
• Friday September 11th- Tamooz Hall at 5 p.m.

Syrian Refugees and Lebanese Farmers Receive a Chance for Production Before the Season is up

August 21st, 2015 Dr. Ramy Lakkis founder of LOST and the mayor of Buday, Mohammed Yousef Shamas signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to start implementing the construction of concrete water channels in the town.
Starting this coming week the implementation of constructing 100 meters of concrete water channels that will enable for 40 Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese families to use the water to improve agricultural farming, which will indirectly benefit thousands of families with abundant fruits and vegetables.
“Something like this should have happened a long time ago, its upsetting how the right thing to do is so hard to do these days, we as a community need to help each other to live right,” said Mayor Shamas and what is life without water.
Mayor Shamas hopes the next project will be to irrigate all the farming land and to have a reservoir for potable water since most of the water in the area is subsurface.
Resident of Buday Ali Alaw, ecstatic about the irrigation system, said, “I used to have to spend 50,000 LL per week on a water tank for domestic needs and with this new water channel that passes by my house, it is an opportunity to access water without having to pay that hefty sum. This money I will be saving will go directly back to my kids.”
This project is part of LOST’s Youth Led Initiatives Project funded by UNICEF. Buday has had a rough couple of years due to a decrease in the water supply. There are about 2,500 Lebanese households in the municipality that now have additional homes for the Syrian Refugees. There is not an exact number of Syrian refugees residing in Buday but based on studies and surveys, there is close to 1,000 households.  Out of this population, 90 percent of the residents in the town live off the land, the majority of them are farmers. LOST responded to problem of a shortage of water supply and found a solution to help these vulnerable families to build capacity for income and provide for their children. In addition to increasing income, this project aids in the social cohesion between Syrian Refugee and the Lebanese farmer.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF/Canada Celebrates International Youth Day at LOST



On Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 and in commemoration of International Youth DayLOST and UNICEF celebrated the launching of nine Youth-Led Initiative Projects, the results of 15 summer camps joining Syrian and Lebanese adolescents.


More than 200 attendees gathered in LOSTs’ hall headquartersincluding Bashir Khodr, governor of Baalbek, Ramy Lakkis, Founder and President of LOST, Bayan YammoutUNICEF/Canada Goodwill Ambassador, Amal Obeid, Adolescent & Youth Program Officer, UNICEF Lebanonlocal key stakeholders in the community, mayors from various municipalities, representatives of security forces and summer camp participants. 


After the initiation through the Lebanese anthem, Head of LOST, Dr. Ramy Lakkis welcomed everyone for celebrating this great day with our future leaders, the youth of Lebanon. Dr. Lakkis said, “It is great to know these young men and women have come together to do good for their community with out distinguishing between genders and nationalities. Even though our resources may be limited, our ability to change is strong.” 


The 200 Lebanese and Syrian summer participants could barely stay in their seats from the excitement that their hard work is being recognized in front of the Governor and the UNICEF representatives. 


The Youth-Led Initiatives


In the Baalbek camp, the youth with the help from UNICEF and LOST provided computers at Dar Al Fatwa, a place for any vulnerable person, no matter their religion or nationality, to utilize. These ten computers were made available for both Syrian and Lebanese to establish fellowships and use for academic purposes in hopes to help ease away negative images between the two. 


In Buday, the youth installed water channels in the form of sprinklers to irrigate the fields. Through the trainings they learned the importance of the community and how to be righteous in giving back to the community. 


To revitalize genuine attitude between Syrian and Lebanese, the youth at the Labwe camp painted a large wall with positive messages where everyone can see. Words are more powerful than a sword after all.


Brital, one of municipalities hosting a large number of Syrian refugees, allowed the youth to renovate a soccer field and purchase uniforms for the teams; instead of sitting outside waiting for something negative to happen. The Mayor of Brital was just as excited to get the adolescents to exchange positive competition; he offered the grounds next to the municipal building.


In Shaat, the youth and municipality decided to do a similar project like the one in Brital, in installing playground toys for kids to benefit from.


The municipality of Shmustar had a traffic problem that resulted in accidents that often made a victim of a Syrian refugee. The Youth at this camp used their time to install traffic mirrors to promote safer driving and decrease the number of accidents.


In Hawsh el Rafka, the youth made a shaded area just beside the city council where individuals can relax, think, or feel free and independent. They built a literal common ground to remind everyone that no matter where we are from, we are all human. The project will aid in strengthening local community and reducing tensions. With the presence of a proud mayor of the municipality in the hall, the youth cheered loud with the mayor clapping along.


Implementing these youth-led initiatives, LOST is promoting constructive behavioral and communication skills to stray from violent actionsThese initiatives came to meet a local need, mitigate tensions between the displaced from Syria and the hosting community, and provide a role model of positive interaction between the two communities. They also revitalized mutual understanding between Syrian and Lebanese to alleviate the negative views from the repercussions of the high influx of Syrian refugees into the region. 


Participants’ stories


A Syrian participant, Dana Khayto, a 17-year-old female said she had to drop out of school. When Khayto first came to Lebanon with her family she was susceptible to harassment from her former colleagues because she is Syrian. After the summer camps she became more confident and concluded that not everyone is alike. Khayto made friends both Lebanese and Syrian and feels blessed to have this opportunity to feel like a unified hand.


Ali Barroud, a 19-year-old Lebanese participant from the Baalbek summer camp said this experience was exciting and he loved being of value in the community.

“This is an opportunity that all youths should take advantage of and not miss, I learned not to hate and not to judge people and that really changed my perspective of the world around me,” said Barroud.




Governor of Baalbek-Hermel, Bashir Khodr said, “Violence is everywhere and there is crime all around us in this area filled with tensions, but what the youth is doing is stepping towards eradicating violence.”


Amal ObeidAdolescent & Youth Program Officer at UNICEF spoke about how proud UNICEF is of the youth for being assets to society and implementing successful projects despite the sad truth of the present civil disturbance in Lebanon. She also capitalized on the fruitful and timely partnership with a credible local actor as LOST.


Lebanese-Canadian Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF, Bayan Yammout was the last to speak and by the looks on the spectators’ faces, Yammout inspired them. 

“I’m proud to be Lebanese, even if I have lived in Germany and Canada, my roots are still in Lebanon,” she said. Yammout learned a lesson from her time at camp as an adolescent “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and ask if you are getting the right information. Be proud of who you are, of your culture, religion and language,” Yammout said.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Together We Can

The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training in cooperation with their German partner, Forum ZFD, and Syrian NGO, Basmeh & Zaitooneh, are working together on the Future Together Now Project to aid in easing social tensions between Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese in four villages located in Northern Bekaa.


Future Together Now” was launched in February 2015 and has since received lots of attention from NGO’s all over Lebanon. 


Community Activists (CA) trained by LOST and ForumZFD on conflict management, communication and negotiation are role models in the community acting as a bridge between the locals and key decision makers. The locals, along with the help of the CA, will form a council to later implement the skills learned through the trainings to mitigate the distance between key decision makers and the people of the villages. This council or committee is known as “The Mechanism”. This mechanism is a form of democratic practice for change to happen. With their leadership skills and humanitarian nature, the Community Activists and the “The Mechanism” will enable strategies to make life better for both the host and the displaced community in four of the largest cities in the BaalbeckHermel region.


The activists attained negotiation skills and shared the problems that need to be addressed with LOST. LOST then will set up meetings with the activists, stakeholders and key players to introduce the action plan that will be implemented by the end of 2015.


The problems that have high priority in finding solutions in the action plan are potable water, garbage and health. The goal of the project is finding peaceful and coexisting solutions for better standards of living which can transcend into the rest of Bekaa and Lebanon


Each area had some activities involving community members, both Lebanese and Syrian, to work together. Together, members from both communities shared a soccer field and played fair and square, together they participated in community service like street cleaning.


The concepts that words are stronger than actions and that as civilized people we can learn to live together and communicate instead of raise violence are the desired outcome for all over Lebanon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It’s Time to Change, Time to Make a Stand

“Step towards Municipal Elections” a LOST Program funded by The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon is in its third cycle, with every cycle reflecting a growth in participation and success. Now participating in the program are women from the regions of Deir el Ahmar, Kasr, Hawsh L Rafeka and Ein.
The “Step” programs’ main goal is to increase the number of women taking part in political decision making. This program is designed to educate women on active citizenship, civic participation, collecting the right information and leadership.
The culture norm of the Lebanese community is that a woman has no business in government, especially in the presence of a man. This norm is outdated and this program is engraining in the minds of women of all ages that it is crucial for every citizen to engage in their local communities, even on a small scale. Participant from cycle one of the program, Jihan Assad agrees.
Jihan Assad, a teacher of math and science in Beqaa public schools, said the “Step” program represented a change in the Lebanese community.
Assad feels her experience in the program changed her life. She said, “ Even though I am an educated person, our society is still very closed to ideas such as women participating in campaigns.”
This program gives power to women to use what is available to let their voices be heard online and in real life. Before being involved in this program Assad never participated in political discussion around men.
Assad said, “The program helped me gain confidence about my political stance and things going on in the country, I was actually able to take part in discussing politics with whoever was talking.”
An influx of social media activism has occurred between the recent months and before the program started a year and a half ago. Women are using social media tools on the Internet like, Facebook, specifically the Women Political Empowerment (WPE) Facebook page, Twitter and blogging sites to discuss political matters that will hopefully foster development.
Before the program Assad didn’t use social media, and now she said if the world comes to end she wouldn’t give up using Twitter to voice her thoughts.
It is the natural basic right of every Lebanese citizen to have a say in his or her countries’ political processes’, and to deny that right is only hurting the country as a whole. “I have a voice, I am a person like any other man, it is important to say ‘Hey, I am here’.”
“It opened our eyes, made us feel valuable and that we are entitled to participate in decision making, to be involved and to make our presence known, so we can change this reality we live in and get over the timidity that women have in the society,” Assad said.
At the end of first two cycles about 200 women participated in a mock campaign organized by LOST. Twelve participants, six from each cycle ran for candidacy.  They discussed politics, problems and how to harbor about change in their speeches. At the end everyone got a vote. This was a hands-on experience for the participants to show their readiness to implement change in their communities. It was also an opportunity for the participants to hear from powerful female figures, like Judge Rania el Lakkis.
Assad feels her experience in the program changed her life. She said, “ Even though I am an educated person, our society is still very closed to ideas such as women participating in campaigns.”
LOST members encouraged the volunteer groups to go out into their municipalities and stand up for their right as Lebanese citizens.
Assad plans to participate in the next election and running for office. She said, “Even if I don’t win, it is important to say I tried.”
The “Step” programs’ agenda to enlighten the female population through knowledge and basic leadership skills in order to cultivate change is eye-catching.
Everyone wants to see change but there is a fear embedded in women from men that they can’t handle the responsibility and it is not in a woman’s place to do such things [politics].
Assad said, “This is my right, they need to keep designing programs like this for more women to participate, so more women can be knowledgeable about these matters, the things I didn’t know before this program was immense!”
 “I know now, I won’t surrender that right.”

Helping Women Raise a Stock of Their Own

 The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training (LOST) with the assistance of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) are working together to provide 60 Lebanese families with sheep in their project called “Food Security for Vulnerable Bekaa Families”.
The project was launched in April 2015 and will progress for the duration of three years. Sixty families, picked after careful evaluation and specific criteria for selection based on need for income, received a sheep from LOST. The mother figure in each family will be the beneficiary of the sheep and responsible for its well-being.
Since May 2015, Monitoring and Evaluation officers from LOST have been performing routine check ups on the families that received sheep. The goal of this project is to enhance socio-economic relations between Lebanese and Syrian residents and to ease tensions due to the aftermath from the Syrian Crisis.
This Food Security Project aims to relieve tensions between Lebanese and Syrian citizens by providing a trade market, encouraging communication and civic peace through workshops. These workshops focus on peace building, social cohesion, techniques to sell products from sheep raising.
The project will aid in creating gender equality in the community, where women will have a role in sustaining their families and providing food security. Women will have a role in providing for the welfare of their children and ensuring that their children have the nutrition they need to grow. It gives women a chance to be breadwinners in their households, resulting in two incomes to live comfortably.