Thursday, March 24, 2016

LOST and UNICEF; A Valuable Partnership

Disastrous effects of the Syrian crisis, which have shed massive burdens on the psychological and physiological state of both Lebanese and Syrian communitiespulled worldwide attention towards attempts to improve their health care and socio-economic conditions and provide them with urgent humanitarian aid. As a result, UNICEF and the Lebanese Organization for Studies and Trainings(LOST) joined efforts in a promising collaboration which aims to reach the determined goals and provide peace building, tension-free environments.

For this purpose a UNICEF delegation representingUK Natcom was hosted by LOST at its headquarters in Baalbeck on Monday March 21st 2016. The delegation attended a briefing on LOST’s mission, vision and interventions of 2014-2017 as well as LOST center different sections and branches in Northern Beqaa area. The delegation were also informed about LOST’s partnership with UNICEF in the “Learning and Skills Programs for Syrian Refugees and Lebanese Youth” project, which will eventually enhance principals of social cohesion and peace education. 

Enthusiasm for the project was prevailed through a series of inquiries and clarifications that were related to common coordination and the importance of cooperation between LOST and UNICEF, Vocational orientation and Peace education (a training which is exclusive at LOST to be further spread). The discussion also included details related to linking social cohesion to local development which is implemented through Youth Led Initiatives. Some of the most important concerns of UNICEF were to what extent can LOST help beneficiaries with tutors abroadbeneficiaries who might be employed by foreign companies, and asked whether LOST has prepared programs for decently educated Syrian refugees with college certificates. 

The meeting was an expertise enriching opportunity for LOST and UNICEF, which will reinforce partnership,expand the scope of future collaborations and hopefully spread new strategies to properly deal with similar crisis situations worldwide and cement peace building paths.

EWL Women Pay Tribute to Dar-Al-Ajaza’s Elderly

With the beginning of spring, “Empowering Women to Lead” project conducted by the Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training (LOST) has blossomed and resulted in a visit to Dar-Al-Ajaza center in Chlifa. On the 22nd of March, 2016, a group of EWL participants visited some elderly in the center as a part of their interest in public affairs.

The women who have been participating in EWLproject for two and a half months were convinced of the importance of their role in society and how they can change it positively. They showed uncanny eagerness to manage some public events in their region, so a group of participants who live in Chaatvillage decided to say hello to some elderly in Chlifa’s Dar-Al-Ajaza center as a sign of social care and interest.

The women took matters into their own hands wanting to arrange a party for the elderly as a notion of good will. They organized cake and juice to please the senior residents of Dar-Al-Ajaza and celebrate holy Easter. Everyone was content, and a sense of joy permeated throughout.

LOST’s project, EWL, left an impact on the participants, and this impact led to the achievement of the women taking initiative and playing an active role in the public life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Swiss Ambassador in LOST Premises: A Good-for-All Partnership

March 19, 2016, the Swiss ambassador François Barrasvisited two premises of the Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training (LOST) in Baalbeck and Al Einto discuss LDO affairs and to witness first hand LOST’s versatile projects with OTI, “People to People.

Mr. Barras’ activity in Baalbeck was focused on establishing the Liaison and Development Office (LDO) in partnership with LOST. The ambassador’s meeting with LOST’s founder, Dr. Ramy Lakkis,delved into all potential opportunities of cooperation to propel the LDO and to mount a stronger response to the municipalities’ increasing needs in the region.

In Al Ein, the ambassador viewed some preparations for LOST’s “People to People” project. He was delighted to see the social cohesion resulting from the project in which women from Labweh, Al EinNabiOthman, and Arsal were working together and packing food supplies to be distributed in the four villages.

LOST’s visitors noticed its projects’ palpable impact in lessening tensions and accelerating social cohesion between the constituents of the community in Baalbeck-Hermel region.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What was LANA doing in Jar Al Amar Restaurant in Hermel?

A group of youth from LabwehArsalNabi Othman, and Arsal(LANA) was invited to a dinner arranged by the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training (LOST) on March 15, 2016 in Jar Al Amar restaurant in Hermel. It was a preparatory step for People to People project that LOST is going to launch in the few coming days. The OTI-funded project promotes social coexistence and lessens tensions among the inhabitants of the four included villages.

Each of the projects’ six groups delegated three participants to the event in order to found and propel a common ground of discussion and common work for the project. 

This event that was primarily organized as an ice-breaking activity turned to be an opportunity for LANA youth to delve into mutual regional affairs. The attendants were gravitated that they spent a lot of time discussing daily issues of each other’s villages and suggesting solutions that may enhance working onthe common benefits and mutual interests of the region. They showed exceptional alacrity to work together in People to People project as a possible means of endearing LANA people to each other. The participants ended up taking selfies and exchanging phone numbers and emails to improve all chances of future contact and cooperation. 

People to People is one of LOST’s versatile peace building projects that promote comity and coexistence in a society where tensions are simmering. LOST is at heart of drive to transform LANA region into a peaceful community where social harmony and cooperation dominates.

Forty Sheep and Forty Lamb found a new home with a Needy Family

The Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training distribute sheep to needy families in Baalbek, Bednayel, Hawsh el Rafqa and Hermel. The sheep distribution is part of LOST's partnership with Mennonite Central Committee in an initiative called Food Security for Vulnerable Families.
A total of forty families, ten from each area mentioned above, received a sheep and a lamb since the sheep were all new to motherhood. Twenty of the forty families are new beneficiaries and were selected based on criteria set to measure their vulnerability and the other twenty families are prior beneficiaries that have been reselected based on their progress with the project.  The twenty reselected families attended all the trainings during their time as participants and took exceptional care of the livestock.
LOST through is initiative is empowering the needy Lebanese families by giving them the ability to support their families while keeping their dignity intact.

Mukhtars of Baalbek Empower Women to Stay Steady with their Goals of Political Activism

March 11th, 2016, women participants participating with the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training (LOST) and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) in a project entitled "Promoting Women's Role in Political Participation in Baalbek" meet with three mukhtars of Baalbek to discuss their goals and obstacles in LOST center.
Being a patriarchal society, one of the major obstacles facing women here is the amount of rejection they encounter if they give their opinion in political matters. Baalbek municipality doesn’t have a single women holding office or running for council. The women met with the delegation of mukhtars to convince them that this problem is real and something needs to be done about it.
The women explained to the delegation that the obstacles and recommendations emerged from a conference held on the 29th of December in Baalbek. This conference was attended by many key figures in society including but not limited to Governor of Baalbek-Hermel Bashir Khodr, former Minister Wafaa el Dika Hamze, General Security Major, Ghayes Zaiter, and Pastor of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop, Elias Rahhal.
The participants said that in order to empower more women to become active in society and make a change in the city, the municipal council should be encouraging women to take part in the decision-making process.
The mukhtars supported the women in their efforts to make a change and offered their full-pledged allegiance to work along-side of them in order to reach their goals.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

LOST and VNGI Exchanging Information to benefit Baalbek-Hermel Region

The International Cooperation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNGI) and Representatives from UNDP gathered in the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training (LOST) center in Baalbek to discuss the recent addition of the Liaison And Development Office (LDO). The LDO is an internal structure in LOST created recently to support local authorities.
The groups met with Dr. Rami Lakkis the founder of LOST and exchanged information on the local scene; what is going on in Baalbek-Hermel Region in relation the Syrian Crisis. They glossed over the local economic development of the region, how to improve municipal services and local governance.
The LDO takes on the responsibility of linking municipalities with international donors. In order to make services available for the resident's municipalities need to be aware of their needs. The LDO will give municipalities the tools needed to assess the needs of their respective communities and create a bond between citizen and local authority.

LOST's Inter-Webbing Office for Developing the Community

Founder of LOST, Dr. Ramy Lakkis and The Ambassador of Switzerland, Mr. Francois Barras signed the Liaison and Development Office (LDO) agreement on March 8th, 2016. 
This office is made to capacitate municipal council members and staff with knowledge and skills needed to respond to community needs. LOST through opening the LDO aims to enhance public services to the constituents of the Baalbek-Hermel region. Thanks to the Swiss Embassy in Lebanon, LOST has the resources to promote good governance between local authority, mainly municipalities, and the residents. 
Representatives from the LDO will reach out to other organizations, both local and international, to encourage transparent communication in order to bring positive results to this impoverished region. 
LOST  is enriching this region via systematic webbing of all components of society including the municipalities' responsibility towards their citizens, as well as organizations' humanitarian responsibility towards rightful utilization of resources at the micro-level.     

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

UNICEF Regional Director’s Visit of March 3rd 2016

No matter how sufficient and accurate reports can be, nor active and reliable the work team is, in any sort of humanitarian aid project, direct contact with targeted beneficiaries and field visits is a must. For this purpose, the UNICEF Regional Director of MENA on top of a high level delegation, paid a Syrian refugee camp targeted by the Lebanese organization of Studies and Training (LOST) a visit, to ensure persistence and sustainability of project and procurement of anticipated goals.
On Thursday March 3rd ,2016  the Regional Director “Mr. Peter Salameh” accompanied by UNICEF, Lebanon Country director in addition to senior UNICEF delegation, visited Hawsh Rafika’s Syrian refugee camp (which is considered the largest camp in the area- about 107 tents), where they met Project Coordinator Mr. Assem Chraif alongside with LOST staff. The UNICEF delegation met two Syrian families separately, and later attended a focus group of Lebanese and Syrian youth targeted by LOST. These two meetings aimed to provide the RD with direct contact with the Lebanese and Syrian locals to derive out their basic needs and demands and inquire about daily problems/ issues.
The discussion with the youth, who will undertake various Life Skills and Vocational Orientation programs with LOST, was centered about common issues and differences, socio-economic challenges and responsibilities, communication and interaction, education and career ambitions as well as potential migration to new countries versus resilience and resettlement.
After the participants presented their demands, the RD “Mr. Salameh” explained the purpose of his visit and the domains which he can provide support at.
At the end of the discussion, Mr. Salameh pointed to UNICEF’s “New Direction” towards providing help and support in education, child protection, health and basic needs. He also reiterates the successful, continuous, and strategic partnership with LOST.

Friday, March 4, 2016

When Women Are Empowered to Lead

Some women in Baalbeck-Hermel are competing against the timer of the municipality elections either to elect or to be candidates. As they have plethora of questions on how to make their dreams come true, the Lebanese Organization of Studies and Training (LOST) and GIZ decided to empower them. For this reason, a senior delegation from GIZ paid a visit to LOST’s centers in Bedneyel and Baalbeck to launch a joint project entitled “Empowering Women to Lead” (EWL) in Baalbeck on February 25, 2016.

GIZ in Bedneyel

The delegation, together with LOST’s founder, Dr. Rami Lakkis, conducted a meeting with some activists, municipality members, and mayors from the region at LOST premises in Bedneyel. The discussion was centered on exploring possible ways to make women part of the political life in which women can contribute to solving problems in their communities. A municipality member said, “We believe that women are better than men in multi-tasking, so we need active NGO support to elicit this dormant potential in the region.” The stakeholders extolled LOST’s role in empowering women in different aspects. One of the women said, “I have been teaching generations the importance of participating in public issues for 15 years without having any idea about the details of making this participation true. Now, with LOST’s awareness raising activities and training, I’ve got enough confidence to make a political plan and run for municipal elections.” In response, Dr. Rami Lakkis appreciated the women’s conscientiousness and expressed how proud he is of such participants whose inchoate steps can be a breakthrough in the women’s status quo in the region. The head of GIZ delegation, Sabine Gürtner, noticed the participants’ impression about LOST’s fingerprint and said, “We are proud to work with LOST to engage women in the political life. We are having a set of forthcoming projects in which we consider LOST a reliable partner to work with.”

With Baalbeck city activists

Afterwards, GIZ delegation headed toward Baalbeck to meet a group of stakeholders and key figures of the city including the Mufti and the Bishop of Baalbeck. The key pivot of the discussion was the Syrian influx and its impact on the region. The Mufti raised alarms on the lack of funding for the increasing needs of the Syrian refugees and their hosting community. He invited Germany to play an active role in this aspect “not to remain the Syrian’s dreamland to immigrate to,” according to him. The Archbishop thanked GIZ for taking Baalbeck-Hermel into consideration and demanded the delegation to establish job opportunities and be a part of the developmental process in the region. One of the mokhtars pointed at the profligate spending of the assistance for the refugees, which results in tensions among them and among the Lebanese citizens. The delegation learned more about how the Syrian influx is getting the already-vulnerable city more impoverished at different levels; infrastructure, water, electricity, and work competition, which triggers more social instability.

EWL launching ceremony

GIZ delegation joined LOST’s EWL launching ceremony in which more than 200 participants in the project, in addition to 400 more women, were present. Dr. Rami Lakkis gave a speech in which he stressed the values of LOST in the public work. He encouraged women to participate in the political life; “You are not alone; LOST is always beside you to make your presence a qualitative rather than a quantitative one.” He also pointed at how women’s grit can play an active role in dealing with the Syrian influx and its effects. “You are the ones who can lessen terms like “We” and “They” via instilling the true qualities of accepting the other in the society in your children’s minds. It’s you who can cultivate the principles of peace building and social stability in a simmering region like ours,” he said.
The governor of Baalbeck-Hermel, Bashir Khodor, had a speech in which he expressed his complete support to LOST’s projects which match “the genuine needs of the community,” according to him.
The head of GIZ delegation, Sabine Gürtner, delivered a speech to express her gratitude for the participants for their presence and efforts. She was sanguine about future chances of ongoing cooperation with LOST as a credible partner.
In some ways, it is to worry as much if not more about the possibility that empowering women remains on the back burner if LOST and GIZ aren’t present to keep their partnership ongoing to take care of the women’s needs and back them up to take lead positions in their communities. Women who are being supported by LOST and GIZ need a continuous process of empowering to reach tangible results in the future.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

UNICEF/LOST: Transparency Is the Best Policy

In scope of UNICEF and LOST’s cooperation in the “ Life Skills for Lebanese and Syrian Refugee Youth” project, which aims at decreasing tension between the Lebanese community and Syrian refugees, UNICEF delegation’s visits continue successively to cope on with the project’s progress. The latest of these visits was on Thursday February 25th, 2016 to LOST center in Baalbek, conducted by the Canadian High Donor delegation.
The delegation from Canada discussed the project’s progress with the project coordinator, Mr. Assem Chraif. Chraif thoroughly explained the project’s goals, its major achievement, funding needs, and how its implementation can lessen tension between the Lebanese society and Syrian refugees. The delegation was deeply interested in the approach and techniques LOST and its functional teams are following en route to pull the project off.
Shortly afterwards, UNICEF, Canada’s delegation attended a TOT session for coaches and supervisors to have a hands-on feedback about how the project is being carried out, to encourage the participating staff, and to better understand the project’s goals.
In concurrence with this visit, LOST and GIZ were launching a new project entitled “Empowering Women to Lead.” So UNICEF, Canada’s delegation attended the project’s initiation event so they have an idea about LOST’s versatile projects and collaboration extents.
LOST, via such visits, strengthens ties with its partners and shows its ability to handle Baalbek-Hermel region’s affairs with professionalism and expertise. This paves the way to keep its partnership ongoing with UNICEF and other organizations.