Within the framework of their emergency responses to the Syrian refugees’ crisis in Lebanon, UNESCO and Caritas Lebanon inaugurated a Community Centre in the Northern city of Qobayat, Akkar, Northern Lebanon.
This event was attended by Director of UNESCO Office in Beirut, Dr. Hamed Al-Hammami, Head of the freedom of expression section in UNESCO – Paris, Sylvie Coudray, Communication and Information Programme Officer in UNESCO Beirut Office George Awad, Director of Caritas Lebanon Dr. Rita Rhayyem, as well as Head of Qobayat municipality Mr. Abdo Makhoul Abdo, officials and representatives of the local civil society, and youth benefiting from the Centre.
This Youth Information Centre, established under the Finland-funded project and managed by trained volunteers from local communities, will benefit vulnerable Lebanese and displaced Syrian youth and children in a relatively neglected area. While special sessions and activities will be dedicated to women empowerment, the Centre will also contribute to the social inclusion of youth by providing them with opportunities for learning, access to information and expressing themselves freely, and acquiring skills through non-formal education. Child-friendly spaces are also created for the out of school children.
Speaking in this occasion, Mr. Abdo welcomed UNESCO officials and Regional Office Director Dr. Hamed Al-Hammami, and praised Caritas substantial efforts throughout the different fields. Mr. Abdo highlighted the significance of this project, expressing that “the Municipality is ready to fully cooperate and dedicate its available resources to contribute in implementing any initiative that would serve the public interest of the residents of Qobayat, and Akkar district in general”.
On his part, Director of UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States, Dr. Al-Hammami, stated that “since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, more than one million refugees rushed to Lebanon, and those numbers are on the rise”. “This human tragedy is affecting lives of refugees as well as host communities”, added Dr. Al-Hammami. “UNESCO acted quickly response to this crisis, and support refugees and host communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq”.
UNESCO Beirut Office Director said that « In Lebanon, UNESCO is focusing on supporting the capacities of the ministry of education and higher education and its network of partners through providing training on quality education in times of emergencies, as well as contributing to educational needs assessment”. Dr. Hammami added that “several activities are also being carried on with national partners in the field of education for peace, targeting Syrian and Lebanese youth, and promoting tolerance and the culture of living together”.
“Within its unique communication and information programme, UNESCO also works to promote freedom of expression and access to information, through empowering women and youth among Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities. This is achieved through multiple training sessions and activities, similar to the one we are gathered here today for”, stated Dr. Hammami. “The establishment of this Centre comes inline with UNESCO support packages, and is a result of a very successful partnership between UNESCO and Caritas Lebanon”, concluded UNESCO Director.
Equipped with a library and a computer lab, this Community Centre will give access to refugees and host communities to a wide range of educational tools and resources such as books as well as spaces to work and study. Internet would ensure the beneficiaries’ rights of freedom of expression and free access to information, while it would also allow them to better connect and interact with the world.
“In a time where peace and tolerance are rare to find, we are gathered today in this Centre that will be open to everyone, especially youth, disregarding differences”, stated Director of Caritas Lebanon, Dr. Rita Rhayyem, thanking the people and institutions in Qobayat and Akkar for “never hesitating to extend their generous and continuous support to Syrian refugees”.
“This Centre is the fruit of UNESCO’s good will and our common belief in the need for providing a space for youth where they can express themselves freely and have access to education. On behalf of Caritas Lebanon, I would like to thank all who took part in this project, especially the Caritas Migrants Center, who work under the slogan “Together we can make a difference”, concluded Rhayyem.
Through its multiple facilities, the Centre will have a positive impact on the productivity of children, students, and youth, building on and supporting ongoing educational projects in the region, and creating safe spaces for extra-curricular work, basic education skills, psychological support, and social cohesion. The Centre also plays a key role in reducing tensions and encouraging socialization between refugees and the host community. Around 20,000 persons, mainly women and youth, will benefit from services provided by this Information Centre.