Imagine a snapshot of a child’s life growing up in a country in continuous social unrest, in the midst of a severe economic crisis that has only been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and an explosion that tore through Beirut and suburbs to the extent shockwaves were felt in the island Cyprus over 200 kilometres away; such devastation was particularly difficult for children. It lead them to experience unwanted distress and feeling like everything is falling apart.
World Vision in Lebanon implemented the “Enhancing the psychosocial wellbeing of children affected by the Beirut Explosion” project in partnership with UNICEF and funded by the Government of Italy as part of the Beirut explosion emergency response. The project emphasizes on providing psychosocial support (PSS) sessions and kits for children and caregivers, in the aim to help the children express their emotions and work on their psychosocial wellbeing along with creating an initiative inside their communities. In addition, finding a safe space to express and share their feelings and work on their personal wellbeing.
Peter ,11, and his Brother Antonio, seven, from Ain El Remmeneh, both attend together and await the sessions passionately according to their mother, Celine. “I really look forward to the sessions and I love all the activities. What I loved the most is the awareness session about surfing the internet safely and learning what to publish and how to avoid hacks, also how to treat our friends in a nice manner and not to hurt their feelings. I learnt things I didn’t know before,” said Peter, “I loved the colourful kits and the movement sessions. We laughed a lot,” said Antonio.
Over 580 children and their caregivers benefited from four PSS sessions and four additional sessions with artists to work on an art-based activities component. The project targeted the community that was directly affected by the Beirut explosion. The activities were spread over three different cycles, started in the centres (Hayat Center, Scouts (Mar Nohra and Ein El Remmeneh), Orthodox Youth Movement, Saint Vincent De Paul and St Charles school), and switched to remote sessions due to lockdown.
Karen, seven, From Hadath, is enjoying painting the most. “During the sessions, I ask a lot of questions, I love interacting with the teacher and my friends. We have a lot of fun and we talk about what makes us happy when we are feeling sad and how we act if we get sad. I said that I go to my room and paint. It makes me feel relaxed and happy, the teachers said walking in the nature helps her, I think it is a very good idea,” said Karen. “World Vision brought us a lot of painting kits so we can enjoy our time and learn new activities and I share them with my little sister Kate, they asked us to think about what makes us comfortable the most, I drew my house” Added Karen.
On April 17, a wall painting event took place as an art initiative in this project. Children were divided into groups to paint a neighbourhood in Bourj Hamoud, one of the most affected areas of the Beirut explosion. Alongside being a fun activity this initiative served as a source of beauty and expression. The process of creating these colourful walls added life to the neighbourhood, and gave the children an enjoyable sensory input, and an opportunity of turning a grey wall into a lively space, as an expression to dealing with sometimes scary emotions in a safe way and turn it into an opportunity of resilience and change.