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Among the loose electric wires and narrow alleyways of Shatila is a tiny chess center, and it's the only one of its kind among the Palestinian camps in Lebanon. The club was first established in 2013 by the Palestinian writer Mahmoud Hashem, who said that chess had helped keep a handful of young children off the streets. Hashem once earned a modest living as a shopkeeper.According to Hashem, 37 children have become regular students at the center, where he holds classes twice a week. Fatima, a 12-year-old girl with fair skin and big smile, said that she had met many new friends at the club since she first started coming to the center at the beginning of last year. Last year, Ali was one of several of Hashem's students who participated in a chess tournament in Beirut's Ashrafieh. He won four matches out of six that day, an experience that was vital for Ali to build confidence in a game that he's grown to love. When Hashem realized that he couldn't afford the costs any longer, he searched for new sources of aid to support his chess center.
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