Lebanon News

Fundraiser for Baalbek refugee school at Beirut’s Bokja

Alexandra Chen tells the story of Kareem, an eleven year old Syrian refugee in Bokja Design Studio in Saifi village, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: A grassroots initiative to finance education for Syrian refugees in Baalbek held a fundraiser at Bokja Design Studio in Saifi Village, Beirut, Tuesday.

The event sought to raise money for teacher salaries at a Baalbek refugee school that was set to shut down earlier this year.“If you don’t have education, you don’t have hope and that makes you a lost generation,” said Carole Nahas who is spearheading the fundraising campaign.

Nahas said she was moved to action when she heard Alexandra Chen, a United Nations child protection and mental health adviser, share a story about Karim, a young Syrian refugee, at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Chen, also present at the Monday event, shared Karim’s story once again for the Beirut attendees.

Karim worked 15-hour shifts at a car mechanic shop in Baalbek, where he was subject to physical, verbal and even sexual abuse at the hands of his employer. “Before I left [for Davos], he said to me: ‘Important people are going to be there, so promise me you’ll talk about us, promise me you’ll tell the world,’” Chen said.

“I chose his story because it is representative of what a lot of Syrian refugee children are going through,” Chen added. The Syrian refugee crisis, she said, was among the worst she had witnessed in her career.

“I was embarrassed that this was happening in my country, a boy was abused and hurt in my own country! So I asked if there was something I could do to help,” said Nahas.

After connecting in Davos, Chen and Nahas joined forces with Trudi Hodges of the Special Projects at AUB to launch a campaign to benefit refugees’ education. Hodges said that she joined Nahas and Chen because she believed they “could have a great role in mobilizing the best resources for a better educational outcome.”

Nahas said that she had stumbled upon the Baalbek refugee school after two journalists from The Daily Star reported on it.

Karim is now one of 200 young Syrian refugees receiving an education at the Baalbek school.

Donations collected at the event Monday, Nahas explained, would go toward paying teachers’ salaries for their second year of teaching. The school’s teachers had offered their services for free for the first year the school was in operation, she added.

For their part, Bokja Design Studio auctioned off an original arm chair at $2,700 as well as small pouches, donating all earnings to the campaign.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 13, 2014, on page 4.




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