Summer Updates from the LEAP Program

Summer Updates from the LEAP Program

Dear Friends of LEAP,

LEAP’s Project SHINE and Project MUSIC are officially underway! Thank you to all of our supporters whose generosity makes all this possible.  We are still collecting donations for our summer projects and our upcoming academic projects, please consider making a generous gift today to support the educational empowerment of Palestine refugee-youth. 

Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to inside and outside the classroom during our first week! 

Project SHINE:

The first week of LEAP classes have wrapped up in Rashidieh and Bourj el Shamale. We are so excited to enter into our 10th year of Project SHINE with over 350 students enrolled!

The theme of our first week of classes centered on Identity & Emotional Expressions. Students in the art classes drew self-portraits, while our advanced English students wrote essays about the factors that shape their personal identity such as race, gender, faith, and family. 

Students also participated in one of our six different recreational activities including Yoga, Theater, and Photography. In fact, photography students have started practicing taking photos with their peers as their first subjects. 

At the end of a successful first week, our Bourj el Shamale team popped a mountain of popcorn

and kicked back with the Project SHINE students to watch How To Train Your Dragon 3, while our Rashidieh team enjoyed a field day complete with tug of war, relay- races, face-painting, and of course, ice-cream!

Project MUSIC:

This is our second year supporting our partner organization Beit Atfal Assumoud’s (BAS) music education program. Our five volunteer music teachers, have joined forces with BAS to offer youth lessons in violin, guitar, brass, woodwinds, piano, percussion, and choir.

With four days of classes already in the books, our beginner students are studying the fundamentals of rhythm and instrumental technique, while more experienced players dive into music theory. Meanwhile, our choir classes have kicked things off with a mix of global mega-hits and Arabic-language staples.

In keeping with our goal to provide a joyful summer both inside and outside the classroom, we

celebrated our first week with a Friday field day, complete with relay races, face-painting, and—of course—ice cream. Honoring their heritage and identity, the students competed on teams named after Palestinian villages, cities and towns.

Refugee Awareness Workshops:

LEAP volunteers attend “Refugee Awareness Workshops (RAW)”, a seminar designed with the intent of educating volunteers about the systemic challenges faced by the Palestine refugee community in Lebanon. Our first RAW focused on the education system and the challenges and conditions for Palestine refugee students.

In Rashidieh and Bourj el Shamale camps, our volunteers met with UNRWA educators, principals and specialists hearing first-hand experiences and the challenges faced by the UNRWA education system.

Ustaz Mohamed from Bourj el Shamale camp explained in detail the struggle Palestine refugee students face when it comes to attaining a quality education. Unprecedented budget cuts have had a detrimental effect on refugee students across Lebanon and the diaspora, resulting in even larger class sizes, precarious working conditions for teachers, and fewer resources for students.

Community Project:

Another key component of LEAP’s summer projects is the Community Project. This year our volunteers will be working on various community projects along with our partners from Beit Atfal Assamoud. One project will be to support in compiling educational resources on Palestine refugees in Lebanon for a toolkit. 

In addition, Rashidieh camp volunteers will be working on restoring a local cemetery. During week one, volunteers visited the cemetery, discussed possible mural options, and surveyed the work to be done.  Not only will the cemetery be cleaned by the end of the program, a shaded area to the side will be refurbished and painted. In Bourj el Shamale camp, volunteers will be working on renovating the theatre space within the Beit Atfal Assamoud center.

A note on the current political situation in Lebanon:

We would also like to take this moment to bring attention to the ongoing crackdown on Palestinian, Syrian, and other non-Lebanese workers currently taking place across Lebanon. Since 1948, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have been systematically denied many of their fundamental rights, including their rights as workers. They are barred from working in upwards of 70 professions, including many of the highest-paying, and have faced countless obstacles when it comes to living with dignity. A recent decision by the Ministry of Labor seeks to formally dismiss any Palestinian, Syrian, or foreign workers working without permits, which are systematically denied and refused. This recent crackdown means even less access to work to a community already deeply restricted, and it has resulted in sustained protest across the refugee community in Lebanon. Moreover, it also strips Palestine refugees from their refugee status and instead, treats them as all foreigners, which delegitimizes their unique circumstance and status. This also meant our second week of classes were disrupted and cancelled due to the mobilized actions in the camp such as strikes and protests. 

In keeping with LEAP’s mission to amplify the voices of the refugee community, each volunteer introduced a project idea to expand support and awareness for the rights of Palestine refugees within their own home community and networks. Throughout the week, the protests were both an inspiring illustration of the spirit and power of the Palestinian people, as well as a sombering reminder of the constant indignities this community confronts everyday in Lebanon, as well as the world over, and the everyday reality facing our students. 

Thank you for your support and generosity! This work is a community effort and we are so appreciative to be in community with all of you!


The LEAP Program

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LEAP Program

LEAP is a grassroots volunteer program established to provide educational empowerment projects to support the intellectual growth and creative curiosity of refugee-youth in Lebanon so they may become agents of change. As an apolitical humanitarian US-based organization, LEAP aims to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinian refugees in general, but particularly in Lebanon, to American volunteers.

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