Whenever a country is going through economic, political and social challenges over a long period of time; its young people are the hope to build a better future. They are the backbone of any nation. They are innovative, creative, and leaders of tomorrow. Against all odds, Lebanese youth are determined to remain resilient and help serve their community.
North of Lebanon is one of the most deprived areas of Lebanon, yet energetic and passionate youth, such as 21-year-old Hala, are striving to make a difference in their communities. Hala currently lives in Jabal Muhsin, Tripoli, a region infamous for the constant rounds of armed conflicts in the past decade. Nevertheless, young people like Hala are a great example of what they are capable of doing. “I live with my parents and four siblings, the economic situation is difficult but we are holding on,” says Hala. “My dad works as a van driver but due to the high prices of fuel and before that, the shortage, he stopped working in the past three months.”
Hala is socially active and makes sure to take advantage of any free time on her hands. “I am currently studying engineering at the Lebanese University, where I am one of the founders of the reading club in the university. I am also responsible in an education centre specialized in teaching children. I also love football. I am currently working on a project called “sports for development” where we teach children social skills through football,” she says. “I am currently taking part in the Youth Engagement project with World Vision, where we are participating in many social activities with youth from different areas in the North,” she adds.
Funded by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Youth Engagement project aims to promote social cohesion among vulnerable children and youth and to support communities with COVID-19 kits and awareness. Youth are participating in inter-exchange events, receiving life skills training, and actively engaging in youth promotion activities.
Hala aspires for leadership
“We took awareness session about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines in protecting people and saving lives, subsequently we provided that information to 40 individuals in our community and helped them register on the vaccination platform,” explains Hala. “We also took a lot of important life skills sessions, but what I liked the most is the leadership and communications skills sessions. I believe in our community people listen to answer rather than listen to understand. That’s why communication is very important. As for leadership, there is a big difference between being a leader and a boss. Leaders work by example and through skills. I aspire to be a leader one day,” she adds.
Hala aspires to become more popular in her region and prove that women can strive in their community. “Currently I am working on a project that helps different participants understand more about their regions. For example, youth from Tripoli will prepare a presentation about Kfarhelda (favourite sites, food, best activities…) and vice versa,” says Hala.
As for 21-year-old Zein, who is also from Jabal Muhsin, supporting his community is very important. “I can’t sit and do nothing. Even throughout part-time volunteering, I am willing to help the community I am part of,” he says. “I am studying banking and finance at the university, I also play football in the 3rd division. In Lebanon, we can’t rely only on sports, so I am also studying to have more options in the future,” he adds.
Zein wants to make a difference in his community
The economic situation in Lebanon took its toll on Zein and his family. “Our financial situation was much better before, but after the economic collapse that started two years ago, my father, who is not working, can’t withdraw the real value of his money from the bank. He is forced to withdraw them at a rate of 3,900 Lebanese Pounds (LBP) while the actual rate is over 22,000 LBP. Thus, the family relies on my big brother and myself for income,” he says.
A friend of Zein from an association where he volunteers told him about the Youth Engagement project with World Vision. “At the beginning, we took sessions about COVID-19 and vaccination, so I immediately took part in it and helped 20 people in my community register on the platform. Some people were hesitant about the vaccine but after I explained to them the key information they changed their minds,” says Zein. The sessions were a perfect opportunity for Zein to meet new friends and enthusiastic youth from different regions. “Through the social events that link youth from different areas in the north I learned a lot. For example, last time we organized a camping activity, during the camping, every participant shared information about his hometown... It was a perfect opportunity to meet new friends and learn more about each other,” he adds.
During the sessions, Zein learned a lot of new information, especially how to deal with people. “My favourite session was the coaching session. We learned how to be empowered and make a stronger presence in our community, along with how to help it,” he says. “I learned how to start my own project and how to finish it. Now I am planning to teach 30 participants life skills such as communication and cooperation through football sessions,” he adds.
Through its various activities, the Youth Engagement project aims to improve the capacity of 1,000 Lebanese youth like Hala and Zein across several areas in the north, allowing them the opportunity to exchange ideas, learn new skills and social cohesion in the hope to empower a new strong generation for the future.