There is a light wind, a little bit of sun and a whole lot of laughter and excitement on this Saturday afternoon for the opening of Sin el Fil’s new sports and youth space.
As a disc jockey fills the air with joyful music, children play on the swings, while parents keep a watchful eye and enjoy chitchats, Local members of Sin el Fil’s municipal councils arrive one after another, as World Vision staff and youth municipal council members put final touches on the event. “This new sports and youth space is the result of two years of hard work,” declares Cynthia Bakkalian, Youth Municipal Council spokesperson. «We conducted a need assessment among the residents of Sin el Fil, and they highlighted the need for public spaces. We worked with World Vision and the municipality to make this project happen.”
It all started in 2015, when World Vision Lebanon reached out to 15 young men and women from Sin el Fil, located in the northern suburb of Beirut, as part of its development strategy and youth participation initiatives. World Vision targeted these young people with a series of workshops on leadership, management and public speaking, to form a Youth Municipal Council (YMC).
Sin el Fil is struggling with lack of development opportunities and weak infrastructure, leading to tension between communities and emerging social issues such as drug abuse among the youth, sexual harassment and lack of security. Due tothe absence of public spaces, young people constantly feel frustrated, marginalized and exposed to drugs, sexual harassment and unsafe conditions. “It is very important for us as youth to take action with the municipality and to put our ideas on the table,” says Bakkalian, “Youth voices should be heard, in order to create a healthier environment for our communities.”
Today, the Youth Municipal Council is an integral part of the municipal work in Sin el Fil.
After speaking with members of the local communities of this city, the YMC highlighted the need for public spaces and worked with the municipality and World Vision Lebanon to rehabilitate two sports courts, which are open to everyone in Sin el Fil. “Municipalities cannot respond to the youth issues without engaging directly with them. We should not assume that we know the youth needs more than they do, and their role is very important in the development journey,” says. Vicky Zouein, a municipal council member and the focal person for the youth development project.
The Youth Municipal Council is one of the ways World Vision is striving to build bridges between local communities towards sustainable development and social cohesion. “This project is one of the most prominent cutting-edge examples of World Vision interventions designed to create partnerships, coalitions and community ownership by promoting citizen’s voice and action” says Rein Dekker, World Vision’s National Director.