Children in Need
Where Education Is
hey were considered part of Syria’s “lost generation.” They are children who came into Lebanon by the thousands, beginning in 2011 — brought by parents and grandparents fleeing the violence and bloodshed of a war in Syria. Lebanon gave them a safe haven, a sanctuary in the ongoing turmoil of the Middle East. It was only supposed to be temporary. But what began as a temporary measure soon evolved into a sense of permanency. Months stretched into years. Lebanon became packed with refugees, as they continued to pour in, day after day, month after month. What started as thousands stretched to about 1.5 million, in a country with just 4 million people. Housing became scarce; jobs became scarcer. Schools became crowded, as classrooms were filled to overflowing.
text by Doreen Abi Raad with photographs by Tamara Abdul Hadi
An emergency became a crisis. According to recent figures of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 666,491 refugee children registered in Lebanon, Iraqi, Palestinian and Syrian, 58 percent of whom are out of school. Could anything be done? One answer came in the form of two religious brothers who started an initiative to serve those young children on the margins — a nonprofit association offering them education, opportunity and, in a very real sense, a place of kinship and belonging. Indeed, the association’s very name, “Fratelli,” means “brothers” — a nod to the two men behind the initiative and, in a broader sense, the feeling of family embodied by its mission. As a result, today a generation that was thought to be lost has been found — and many children have also, in the process, found a future.
he main concept of the Fratelli Association was born in Rome by the Marist and De La Salle congregations of religious men as an answer to the call of Pope Francis to go beyond the borders and “reach out to everyone, in particular those who live in the peripheries of existence.” Spanish Marist Brother Miquel Cubeles and Mexican De La Salle Brother Andrés Porras came to Lebanon in September 2015, first setting out to study and analyze the refugee situation in the country, meeting with some 100 groups or individuals to understand the full scope of the refugee crisis and its impact on education. Aside from refugee children missing out on education in Lebanon, they realized that refugees who were able to enter the country’s Children attend English class at the Fratelli School in Saida, Lebanon.
The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)