On February 22nd, 2015 the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training (LOST) and a senior delegation from UNICEF visited the municipality of Britel as part of following up with the implementation of UNICEF’s joint projects with LOST that are carried out in the region. UNICEF delegation included two key UNICEF fundraisers; Irish Natcom, The One Foundation in addition to Mr. Donnacha O’Callaghan the Good Will Ambassador, Deputy Director Mr. Luciano Calestini, Youth sector Coordinator, Amal Obeid, and UNICEF's Bekaa team.
The delegation first met the Mayor of Britel, Abbass Ismail, to discuss the impact of the Syrian influx on the hosting community and the impact of LOST/UNICEF intervention in the village. The mayor asserted that the village has been affected by the Syrian influx since the beginning of the crisis; today's ratio in Britel is one Syrian to every five Lebanese. This has had an extreme effect on the infrastructure of the village and its social structure. The mayor remarked that LOST has been working along with the municipality and UNICEF’s support to mitigate the tensions caused by the increase of the refugee population. To achieve such a purpose, LOST in collaboration with the municipality of Britel recruited 30 youth participants (15 Syrian and 15 Lebanese) from the village in a 3-month program to get a set of trainings and carry-out a youth-led initiative that meets a community need. The mayor said, "An interesting part of the story is how humanitarian the project was carried out regardless of being Lebanese or Syrian."
Aside with meeting the mayor, the UNICEF delegation met the youth beneficiaries who were eager to speak about the training they have undergone on needs assessment, leadership, communication skills, and project design. The trainees highly appreciated the chance UNICEF, Lebanon and LOST offered them to implement a community project based on their assessment of the village’s needs. They thanked LOST and UNICEF, Lebanon for the chance to make a change in their community. Of note, the youth-led initiative was to renovate a football playground which was constructed earlier by LOST after the 2006 war. This community project was part of 15 other initiatives LOST in partnership with UNICEF, Lebanon is conducting across Baalbek-Hermel region in 2015 to engage youth in taking a stand and responding to community needs. In 2016, LOST and UNICEF, Lebanon are planning to implement 45 more similar initiatives in different villages in the region.
The organic partnership between LOST and UNICEF, Lebanon was discussed in light of how fruitful it is in helping vulnerable people, with manners of humanity and dignity. Assem Chraif, Project Director explained the approach adopted by LOST to mitigate tensions between refugees and the hosting community through linking social cohesion to local development. He also proclaims that engaging Lebanese and Syrian youth in the implementation of small community projects and making such initiatives visible will create a role model for other youth to follow. The UNICEF, Lebanon deputy director Luciano Calestini, replied, “I thank LOST and the municipality for their active support and cooperation. What they did qualifies to be a role-model for future design of collaboration between government, citizens, and local communities.”
LOST and UNICEF, Lebanon have a common goal to merge Syrians and Lebanese Youth in a peaceful environment, thus lessening tensions between different constituents of the society and protecting the extremely vulnerable people.