April 2018 - Lebanon

RET empowers the Youth of Bekaa to Become Agents of Social Change

RET has been actively involved, since June 2017, in implementing a project to prevent radicalization and violence extremism in Lebanon, in the governatore of Baalbek-Hermel The project was funded by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, and coordinated with the Ministry of Social Affairs in Lebanon through its Social Development Centers (SDC) in Baalbeck, Ras Baalbeck and Hermel. RET has selected the three specific locations in an effort to build local capacities and empower the communities, especially the youth, to actively participate in decision-making practices and enhance their abilities to mitigate inter and intra-community conflict. Hence, RET empowered the youth from the host and refugee communities in Lebanon to become agents of positive social change, by building capacity in understanding and mitigating conflict, promoting a culture of peace and non-violence, as well as project planning for social action, while helping them gain skills, confidence and become more resilient individuals.

RET provided more than 600 unemployed youth from the host and refugee communities with a series of self-reliance and skills training suggested after an asset-based approach with local authorities to outline the marketable skills needed nowadays to improve the employability profile among the youth. The livelihoods training covered different topics from Construction, Tourism, Hospitality Management, Solar Energy, First Aid, and Catering, along with, RET provided literacy classes in English, Financial Management, and Computer Skills.

“Through the protection and empowerment of youth, RET is contributing to the stabilization of the local communities, in a manner which is holistic and sustainable, by providing the youth a better alternative and hence, contributing on a larger scale, to the prevention of further outbreaks of conflict and violence” asserted Acacia Polatian, RET Country Director in Lebanon.

The programme also offered individual and group psychosocial support and referrals to specialized and non-specialised services for more than 1000 youth and their caregivers at risk of radicalization. “… I feel safe with this group, here I am allowed to express my emotions and feelings, I don’t have to be angry all the time…” expressed a participant of the psychosocial sessions provided at the SDC in Baalbeck.

150 youth were actively involved in community leadership training focusing on the importance of conflict resolution, tolerance, and peacebuilding, who, in turn, sensitized more than 1200 peer youth in all three areas.

“The peacebuilding training helped us build friendships beyond the fear of borders. Now I have Ragheb as my close friend. Syrians and Lebanese have more agreements than they have disagreements. We are all humans.” Said Masoud, one of the peer educators with RET.

Moreover, in its community stabilization programme, RET supported the youth to implement 12 events to spread peace in their respective communities; additionally, they designed and implemented 15 community support projects with a focus on decreasing discrimination and marginalization and raising the awareness of peace and non-violence.

The youth chose various social issues based on their interests and the needs identified in their community, targeting significant economic, social, and cultural issues. These community support projects included, among others, the creation of youth safe space, theaters for the prevention of early marriage and drug abuse, collection, and distribution of food and renovation of informal tented settlements and the creation of a mixed choir by Syrian and Lebanese youth.

“… We never believed that our voice and our ideas could turn into reality… Having a safe space and a library in Baalbeck is like having a second home with the added value of having the liberty to practice music, draw, dance, create a play or socialize in a pleasant environment…” said Ali, one of the peer educators at RET.

RET has helped the youth gain a sense of self-confidence in their abilities to be agents of positive social change. By working together across divides of age, gender, religion, and nationality, the youth built tolerance and understanding.

“The project allowed Syrian youth to break their isolation and routine; gain a sense of purpose, and feel encouraged to carry on despite the difficult transition they are living,” explains Ms. Polatian.

In addition to outreach activities to create awareness following the implementation of the community support projects, coordination mechanisms were put in place with local authorities and community leaders in order to further sensitize community members on the importance of social stability and peaceful coexistence. The feedback and impact of the project are gratifying, especially in its impression to develop the sense of civic responsibility among the youth and its more significant impact in creating social cohesion between the different members of the community and in particular among the host and refugee communities.

Updated, April 30th, 2018