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.

LOST Distributes Flowers over Tourists during International Baalbeck Festivals

On July 30, 2015, more than 20 youth participants involved at the LOST/UNICEF project and as part of their Peace Education training delivered by the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training distributed flowers at the entrance of the ruins of Baalbeck welcoming tourists and sending messages of hospitality during the first day  that marks the beginning of the International Baalbeck Festivals.
The move was closely coordinated with the municipality of Baalbeck and the International Baalbeck Festivals committee. This symbolic gesture by the participants was a direct outcome of the peace education training they have been taking for 12 weeks, thus holding themselves accountable to openness to others and sending a message of inclusiveness.

LOST strongly supports such activities which give a positive and civilized image about a region whose reputation has been heavily tarnished by the media. It also suggests a roll model of active citizenship and civic participation. Moreover, hard work will always result in excellent outcome; dedication and insistence to improve ourselves, our community, and above all our country are the main reasons that lead to such a great move.