IBBY Children in Crisis: Syrian Children in Lebanon

Lebanon: Syrian Refugees Bibliotherapy Project

Project Update here

In 2013 IBBY launched a worldwide appeal for funds to support a therapeutic programme using books, theatre, and other methods to help Syrian refugee children understand their own feelings, express them and recognise those of others.  Julinda Abu Nasr from the Lebanese American University and John Chimanti from the American University of Beirut designed the project based on research done in Lebanon during the 16-year war that ended in 1990. The programme was administered to 5,000 children between the ages of 7-14, who were exposed to violence during the war and then again during the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006.  In both situations the results achieved with children proved successful and rewarding. It was also shown that once the teachers were trained in the techniques presented on the academic or the psycho-social levels, it enhanced their teaching skills and their work with the children continued to improve.  

The IBBY project began in January 2014 and initially took in displaced Syrian children whose ages range between 7-14 years. The programme had beneficial effects on the children and their aggressive and undisciplined behaviour was reduced. The children had a space to express their fears, anger, anxieties and other negative feelings through play, listening to stories, drawing and acting in a warm and loving atmosphere that is not threatening in any way.  Teachers reported that the behaviour of the children taking part in the programme was greatly improved, which had a beneficial effect on their academic achievement and on the classroom environment in general. 

With further funding from the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund the project was extended in 2015. Approval was received from the Lebanese Ministry of Education to implement the bibliotherapy project in two public schools that accommodate Syrian children. 19 teachers from Shakib Irslan Public School received training, of which 4 were selected with one coordinator to work with 100 children from the school. The sessions were on Friday mornings, the children’s free day from February to mid-May. The programme in the Burj Hammoud schools began a new session in March with 80 children four teachers and a coordinator. The sessions continued to mid-May, four hours every Saturday, the day off in this school. The children had an opportunity to relate their, often horrific, experiences. The teachers are trained to listen to the children, rather than talk at them, in the more usual authoritarian teaching style. Unfortunately the violence the children have witnessed often translates into aggression, anger and anxiety with other children. In the words of Julinda Abu Nasr, the project leader, the programme is lighting a candle in the dark tunnel they have had to cross to early in life. Through telling their own stories, being listened to, and reading stories with characters that set examples of good behaviour, the children learn to adapt their social skills, becoming more articulate and less aggressive. These changes are noticeable not only in the sessions but at home and at school.

IBBY Appeal for Syrian Children 2013 

For Arabic version click here

The news that is coming from Syria is shocking, tragic and terribly sad.  Refugees are pouring over the borders in their thousands and by the beginning of September there were estimated to be 723,000 refugees in Lebanon – for a country with a population of just under 4 million people that is a lot of extra people to cope with.  By the end of this year the number of Syrian children refugees is expected to reach half a million in Lebanon. 

Aid for shelter, food and medicines is steadily arriving from international donors, but as we know food and shelter is not enough for the children living through this terrible conflict.  IBBY believes that children who are suffering from natural disaster, displacement, war and its aftermath, desperately need books and stories as well as food, shelter, clothing and medicines.  These are necessities and are not mutually exclusive. 

Aid agencies working with the children have noted that most of them are showing classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.  Even though the children are now hundreds of miles away from the front lines of the war, they are haunted by what they saw and what they lived through

The Lebanese Board on Books for Young People (LBBY) is a registered organization that is concerned with the well being of children and the promotion of reading.  It has participated in the development and installation of numerous school libraries.  It has also addressed the psycho-emotional needs of Lebanese children and young people after the civil war (1975-90) and the 2006 war with Israel through a special programme designed for that purpose.

The Nasma Learning and Resource Centre, established by Al Huda society for Social Care, is a registered organization that concentrates on the needs of underprivileged students from public schools with the motto “Give them an Opportunity.”  Nasma has already worked with displaced Syrian children during the scholastic year 2011-2012 and has succeeded in helping them cope with the challenges they were meeting in their new environment.

Nasma and LBBY are particularly concerned with the thousands of Syrian children that have been arriving in Lebanon looking for refuge from the violence their communities are being exposed to.  This state of affairs was no choice of theirs, but they were caught in it and many are suffering its consequences on their physical, social, emotional and academic levels.  Together LBBY and Nasma will work to help these children and their families.

Dr Julinda Abu Nasr from the Lebanese American University and Dr John Chimanti from the American University of Beirut designed a project based on research done in Lebanon during the 16-year war, that ended in 1990.  This activity is now being proposed for the current situation.  The therapeutic programme using books, theatre, and other methods to help children understand their own feelings, express them and recognise those of others was administered to 5,000 children between the ages of 7-14, who were exposed to violence during the war and then the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006.  In both situations the results achieved with children proved successful and rewarding. 

It was also shown that once the teachers were trained in the techniques presented on the academic or the psycho-social levels, it enhanced their teaching skills and their work with the children continued to improve.  It has also a rippling effect since the trainees can teach others the techniques they learn.

Please help us to help IBBY Lebanon bring relief to the children caught up in this latest disaster that has struck again at the very people who struggle throughout their normal lives. 

All donations are welcome.  

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