JCC Newsletter-Summer 2015
The Joint Christian Committee is a non-profit organization founded in 1951 to provide services to Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon. It continues its mission today by offering vocational training, education, direct assistance, and psychosocial services to Palestinian and Syrian-Palestinian refugees through its four centers located around the country. This newsletter provides an update of activities conducted this quarter in JCC’s centers. The JCC is part of the Middle East Council of Churches’ Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees.
The Return to Syria
Just as the school year ended for the Syrian refugee students at Saida Center, the wait began. Students who had traveled to Damascus for their exams eagerly anticipated their results, hoping that their hard work would pay off and they could step up to the next stage of life: university.
In general, the results were very pleasing. The director of JCC Saida Center, Abu Hussein, was happy to share that the number of JCC’s students who passed the exam was well above the national average of 51%: 42 out of 66 students passed their examinations and are approved to go on to higher learning.
Education has been a conduit of hope for these young adults who have been forced to interrupt their lives due to war. Successful high school graduates can finally feel the sweetness of the toil and commitment of the last 12 years.
But for many, this is the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in formal education, but also a return home. Several of JCC Saida Center’s students have centered their hopes for higher education on returning to Syria. Ammar, who is making plans to begin a degree in Computer Science in Damascus hopes that going home for university will enable him, “to help my people and help in rebuilding my country knowing that as our past was there; our future lies there, too.”
Ammar is just one of several students who are considering their futures and feel the call to invest in their home country despite the challenges that studying in Syria will present. Ghada, a young woman who was raised in Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp outside of Damascus, is realistic when asked about her concern for her safety: “there is no room for fear of what is going on in Syria.” There is only room hope and hard work.
It is possible that a longing to return home has also motivated these students to consider Syria as a place to study. Ghadeer says that she is homesick and, while she is not afraid, she is nervous to be so close to the war. Read more here… and here.
News from our other centers
The spring and autumn seasons in southern Lebanon are warm & sunny – ideal conditions for growing a variety of fruits and vegetables. It spans the space between more extreme climates, allowing tropical plants like the avocado tree to flourish alongside more temperate plants like squash & apples.
Due to a hot summer, the growing seasons are broken by a period of drought and heat. The sun bakes the earth & along with any tender plants if they are left exposed to the elements. It is the time of year for Waleed, the JCC Tyre farm director, to gear up for the next summer, using the summer break to rejuvenate the earth.
While the ground is dormant, it is a busy season for Waleed as he rototills the ground, removes weeds, and covers the ground to ensure no plants take root for 40 days. After this period is up, he can begin with the new seeds – tomatoes, cucumbers, salad greens, etc. – and small plants. Hope comes twice annually in Tyre as the earth yields for a new season, a cooler season, and we inch closer to autumn.
Summer at JCC Dbayeh Center means one thing: time for summer camp! Dbayeh Center has been running an annual camp for the last 7 years with support from different organizations. It is a consistently fun time – kids eagerly participate in crafts, art, games, sports, trips to the pool – you know, all the standard fun & games that we expect from summer break.
But JCC Dbayeh Center, ever proud of its mission to increase skills and pass on the legacy of Palestinian heritage, also has several unusual aspects to its Summer Camp.
When we look at the work of JCC’s center in Sabra, we often focus on the charming children who populate the cheerful classrooms of the Nursery School and Kindergarten.
These classrooms have a magnetism of their own whenever any visitor pops in to see the program in action. The children themselves are engaged and earnest as they participate in educational activities.
But children grow up – too quickly – and after JCC they begin formal schooling and spread out into the world of governmental schools. Oftentimes we lose track of these students over the years; it is extra special to meet a student years later.